The American conductor, Geroge Hanson, received his formal training at the Vienna Academy of Music, the Curtis Institute, Indiana University and Concordia College. He served as assistant to Leonard Bernstein. He was Resident Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra from 1988 to 1993, and assisted Kurt Masur at the New York Philharmonic Orchestra from 1993 to 2000. He burst onto the European scene at age 28 with first prizes at the Budapest International Conducting Competition and, shortly thereafter, at the Stokowski Competition in New York.
In seven years as General Music Director of the Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra and Opera in Germany, George Hanson oversaw nearly 50 opera productions. Of Hanson's Don Giovanni, the Rundschau wrote “The success … was due primarily to the conducting of George Hanson. The phrasing with the singers was nuanced and differentiated, perfectly balanced with the orchestra…” He made six recordings with Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra; the first was praised by Henry Fogel in Fanfare Magazine as “a recording of extraordinary importance … one of the year's 5 best.” Hanson's last recording there received the ECHO Klassik award, second only to the Grammy in international importance. Stereoplay magazine said Hanson had the Wuppertalers sounding “as if they were the Berlin Philharmonic.”
Since taking the helm at Tuscon Symphony Orchestra (TSO) in 1996, George Hanson has led the regional orchestra to international acclaim. TSO's first recording, released last season, reached Number Two on USA Classical Charts, and was lauded by critics around the globe. Stereophile Magazine praised the orchestra's “chamber-music-like interaction” with pianist Alain Lefèvre in Andre Matthieu's Piano Concerto No. 4, “a work demanding-- and here receiving- utmost virtuosity and musicality,” with orchestra and conductor “chiseling in finest increments the work's sleek dynamic contours, and rising to Lefèvre's passionate heights.” In an editorial, the Arizona Daily Star proclaimed, “TSO recording proves Tucson has a gem.”
George Hanson is helping shape the changing role of the modern Music Director. As symphony and opera conductor, pianist, recording artist, television host, educator, community leader, fundraiser and passionate spokesman for the arts, Hanson has helped establish the profile of the Tucson Symphony as the flagship organization in Tucson's cultural and economic life. Imaginative programming has been a hallmark of Hanson's tenure in Tucson. An appealing mix of dynamic orchestral works and soloists has helped drive solid growth in TSO's subscriptions and attendance.
Hanson has joined his TSO musicians as solo pianist, conducting concertos from the keyboard. The Arizona Daily Star called his performance of Mozart “an impressive display; Hanson played with the technical proficiency and sublime elegance of someone who does it full-time for a living,” adding, “he brought a casual playfulness, his hands gliding with ballet-like grace over the keyboard … taut and fluid, passionate and learned…” Known for his lively pre-concert chats, Hanson is a popular speaker, addressing the educational and economic importance of music and the Arts. He hosts a television program, “Arte,” profiling Arizona artists.
This season (2009-2010) George Hanson adds Yo Yo Ma to an extraordinary range of artists with whom he has shared the stage - from Joshua Bell, Peter Serkin, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Andre Watts and Emmanuel Ax, to Tony Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie, and Roberta Flack. His work in the recording studio with the rock group R.E.M. brought Hanson “Triple Platinum” recognition.
George Hanson has led nearly 100 orchestras and operas, including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Radio orchestras of Berlin and Hamburg, Berlin's Komische Opera and Vienna's Kammeroper, Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, Mexico's National Symphony, and the orchestras of Osaka and Seoul. Recent American debuts include Phoenix, Indianapolis and Charlotte. Highlights for 2009-2010 include return visits to Hungary, and to the orchestra where Hanson held his first music directorship, the Anchorage Symphony.
His wife Petra, journalist for German TV, is active in fundraising for TSO. They reside in Tucson with their three sons, James, Max and Victor.