George Hanson, recently named Permanent Guest Conductor and Artistic Advisor of Orquesta Filarmónica de Sonora in Hermosillo, also holds the post of Festival Director of the Tucson Desert Song Festival. George Hanson is helping shape the changing role of the modern music director. He is a symphony and opera conductor, pianist, recording artist, television host, educator, community leader, fundraiser and passionate spokesman for the arts.
Music Director of the Tucson Symphony from 1996 through 2015, Hanson raised the profile of the orchestra, establishing it as the flagship organization in Tucson's cultural life.
2016 marked the fifth season of Hanson’s tenure as Artistic Director of the Sunriver Music Festival in Oregon. Sold out venues, growth in ticket sales and an expansion of program offerings highlighted an exciting summer.
Hanson’s recent and upcoming guest conducting appearances include a production of Lucia di Lammermoor at the Mecklenburg State Opera, concerts in Pforzheim and Leipzig and debut performances with France’s Nice Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Festival, the Virginia Symphony and Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.
Of Hanson’s performance of Verdi’s Requiem in last season’s inaugural Desert Song Festival, The AZ Star wrote, “Hanson set the bar high . . . . He performed the 83-minute piece without a score, bringing out all of Verdi’s trembling and triumph.” The Leipziger Zeitung reviewer praised Hanson’s Brahms, writing, “Thousands of applause and shouts of bravo! filled the Great Hall-- and well deserved. The orchestra showed their best side under Hanson.”
In 2010 Hanson joined his TSO musicians as solo pianist, conducting Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 from the keyboard. The Arizona Daily Star called it “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. . ."
Under Hanson, TSO's first recording reached No. 2 on U.S. 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 André Mathieu's Piano Concerto No. 4, "a work demanding—and here receiving—utmost virtuosity and musicality,"
In six seasons as General Music Director of the Wuppertal Symphony and Opera in Germany, Hanson oversaw nearly 50 opera productions. Of Hanson's Don Giovanni, the Rundschau wrote “The success of the evening was due primarily to the conducting of George Hanson. The phrasing with the singers was nuanced and differentiated, perfectly balanced with the orchestra. . . .”
Hanson burst onto the European scene at the age of 28, with first prizes at the Budapest International Conducting Competition and shortly thereafter at the Stokowski Competition in New York. Since then he has led more than 100 orchestras and operas, including the New York Philharmonic, the Radio orchestras of Berlin and Hamburg, Berlin's Komische Opera and Vienna's Kammeroper, the Warsaw Philharmonic, Mexico's National Symphony, and the orchestras of Johannesburg, Osaka and Seoul.
Hanson made six recordings with Wuppertal; 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."
In recent seasons Hanson added Itzhak Perlman to an extraordinary range of artists with whom he has shared the stage— from Lang Lang, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Peter Serkin, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Andre Watts and Emmanuel Ax, to Chris Botti, Tony Bennett and Dizzy Gillespie. His work in the recording studio with the rock group R.E.M. brought Hanson triple platinum recognition.
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.
Hanson served as assistant to Leonard Bernstein. He was Resident Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony, and assisted Kurt Masur at the New York Philharmonic. He received his formal training at the Vienna Academy of Music, the Curtis Institute, Indiana University and Concordia College.
George Hanson maintains homes in Tucson and Leipzig, Germany.