As symphony and opera conductor, pianist, recording artist, television host, educator, community leader, fundraiser and passionate spokesman for the arts, George Hanson is helping shape the changing role of the modern music director. Now in his 17th season at the helm of the Tucson Symphony, Hanson has raised the profile of the orchestra, establishing it as the flagship organization in Tucson's cultural life.
2012 marks the first season of Hanson’s tenure as Artistic Director of the Sunriver Festival in Oregon. Every available ticket was sold for Hanson’s performances in Sunriver— a new milestone for the festival.
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 the Virginia Symphony.
In 2010 he 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.”
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. In seven years as General Music Director of the Wuppertal Symphony and Opera in Germany, Hanson oversaw nearly 50 opera productions. He has led nearly 100 orchestras and operas, including the New York Philharmonic and Phoenix, Indianapolis and Charlotte Symphonies.
Hanson has shared the stage with an extraordinary range of artists—from Lang Lang, Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Bell to Tony Bennett and Dizzy Gillespie. His work in the recording studio with the rock group R.E.M. brought Hanson triple platinum recognition.
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 and his wife Petra reside in Tucson with their three sons—James, Max and Victor.