Hanson retires from ESO
Robert Hanson, music director of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, has resigned that post, effective July 1, in order to devote more time to writing music and to spend time with his wife.
Associated with the ESO for 37 years, Hanson took over as music director in 1985 following two years as co-music director with Margaret Hillis. He had served as her assistant conductor since 1974.
Under Hanson's artistic leadership, the orchestra progressed from an ensemble of mostly volunteer musicians into one of the nation's finest regional professional orchestras. Three times, the ESO has been named "Orchestra of the Year" by the Illinois Council of Orchestras, and in 2001 and 2009 Hanson was named that organization's "Illinois Conductor of the Year."
Hanson's final concerts at Hemmens Theatre took place June 10-12, when he conducted Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique" Symphony and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 with the 25-year-old Korean superstar Joyce Yang, her second appearance with the ESO in two years.
"It was so inspiring to receive standing ovations at every concert," Hanson said in his June 16 letter of resignation to board chairman Jerry B. Cain. "Last weekend was the pinnacle of my career because the orchestra set a new standard of performance."
Hanson and his wife, Linda, a retired superintendent with several area school districts, plan to take a step back for a few months. Hanson, who holds masters and doctorate degrees in music composition from Northwestern University, says he plans to devote more time to writing music, which he cut back in recent years due to his increased conducting schedule.
"After months of soul-searching, Linda and I decided it was time for me to retire," Hanson said. "Every time I have stepped onto the podium, I have felt privileged, humbled, and awed by the talent of these incredible musicians. They brought an unprecedented musical experience to our region. My heart goes out to you who have remained constant and committed to the journey we experienced together."