We meet people every day. Some people come into our lives; we lose contact with them and it’s hardly noticed. There are some whom we feel privileged to have met and known and then there are special ones who are a joy to have known but who also leave an imprint on our hearts forever. Conductor and Music Director of the Tucson Symphony George Hanson is one of those special people. He came to Tucson as TSO’s new director in 1996 and has brought the orchestra to its highest level of artistic distinction and international reputation of excellence. Tucson will miss greatly his personality as a conductor and passionate spokesman for the arts. His pre-concert chats were informative but also humorous and engaging for the audience. He made the music literally come alive with his interpretations. I remember hearing the TSO for the first time in the winter of 1997. It was a rainy evening and the first thing Maestro Hanson did was thank the audience for coming out on that rainy evening. Having just arrived from big snow country, where we had to shovel nearly every day, his apology for the weather was actually funny.
Maestro Hanson grew up in northern Minnesota, one of three sons in the Hanson family. His father, who at one time played trumpet for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, was on the faculty of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. He conducted the college orchestra and band. George began his musical training at an early age and received degrees from Concordia College, Indiana University, The Curtis Institute and the Vienna Academy of Music. Mr. Hanson received international recognition at age 28 when he won first prizes at the Budapest International Conducting Competition and the Stokowski Competition in New York. He has led nearly 100 symphony orchestras and opera companies. He served as an assistant to Leonard Bernstein. “Bernstein was a great mentor and personal friend. He was my most important musical influence and I treasure the time I spent with him,” says Hanson. It is no secret that Gustav Mahler is among Hanson’s favorite composers and his outstanding conducting of Mahler’s works has identified him as a Mahler specialist in Europe.
Having moved to Leipzig and performing on the international stage, each program he conducts this season has special meaning to him and his time in Tucson. The opening weekend will mark the tenth anniversary that Alain Lefèvre played the Gershwin Piano Concerto with the TSO. Hanson says, “Der Rosenkavalier is simply the most beautiful love music ever written and I am looking forward to conducting it in a community that I have loved for so many years.” He brings his tenure as Music Director and Conductor to a fitting close with his favorite Mahler. “Mahler took Beethoven’s final work, a farewell quartet, and transformed a goodbye into a work looking to the future and all its possibilities. It seems an appropriate time for both me and the TSO to perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 as we look ahead to the future.” As we bid Maestro Hanson Auf Wiedersehen, we wish him well and give thanks for all he has done for us and Tucson.