The Hanover Band is a period instrument chamber orchestra based in Sussex, England. It attracted much attention early on for its individual performance style, which often puzzled critics and created controversy. Certain recordings, the Beethoven nine symphonies in particular, have managed to generate both awards and sharp criticism.
Founded in 1980 by Caroline Brown, the Hanover Band has given concerts in a variety of locations, but has resided in the Old Market Building, Hove, Sussex, since November 1998. Its first concert took place at St. Margaret's Westminster (London) on March 26, 1980, under the direction of Marie Leonhardt. In May of that year, Monica Huggett was appointed music director of the Hanover Band. In 1981, Roy Goodman became a regular conductor and over the years, other illustrious figures would guest conduct the group, such as Charles Mackerras and Nicholas McGegan. By January, 1982, the Hanover Band's first recording was issued on Nimbus Records, an all-Beethoven release featuring Huggett conducting the Symphony No. 1, paired with the Piano Concerto No. 1, for which soloist Mary Verney performed on the fortepiano. This recording of the symphony, it would turn out, was the first in a set that would include all nine Beethoven symphonies issued later in the decade on Nimbus. On March 31, 1982, Charles Mackerras led the ensemble in a memorable concert of music by Haydn in Westminster Abbey, marking the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth. Over the next few years, the Hanover Band issued recordings at an increasing rate and gave numerous concerts and tours abroad. It appeared in a memorable televised Beethoven concert from Whitehall on April 9, 1985, and then on May 3 initiated a six-week-long series entitled Basically Beethoven, from London's Queen Elizabeth Hall. The ensemble's first tour of the United States came in October, 1985. By 2002, the group had made ten such concert tours of the U.S. In 1986, Roy Goodman was appointed principal conductor of the ensemble. He led the players in many successful concerts over the years, but perhaps his greatest legacy was the completion of the Beethoven symphony cycle started by Huggett. Goodman finished the cycle in 1988 and the set received at least two major awards, the first from the Music Retailers Association (Best Box Set) in 1989, and a Record of the Year Award from Fono Forum (1990). Yet many critics expressed varying degrees of disapproval of the performances, largely owing to brisk tempos and what they considered unusual phrasing. In 1994, Roy Goodman stepped down as principal conductor and was succeeded by Anthony Halstead. The Hanover Wind Band was formed the following year as an off-shoot of the ensemble. Its focus has been repertory from the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries, taking on serious as well as ragtime music. In 1999, the Hanover Band launched a one-year music education project in Brighton & Hove entitled "No Beethoven, No Beat," successfully introducing young audiences to the symphonies of Beethoven. In 2001, Halstead and the Hanover Band completed a massive recording project they began in 1995 for the label cpo that offered the complete works of Johann Christian Bach on 22 discs.