H. Robert Reynolds – The Retirement Concert | Michael Daugherty, composer

H. Robert Reynolds – The Retirement Concert
Equilibrium Records/December 2001


Rosa Parks Boulevard
University of Michigan Symphony Band
H. Robert Reynolds, conductor



This two-CD set, is a live recording of H. Robert Reynolds’s retirement concert of April 6, 2001. He had been director of university bands at the University of Michigan since 1975, and fittingly he presented a program of works that he especially loved to conduct. The program is complete with Professor Reynolds’s spoken anecdotes about the music to be heard. The program includes three classics of the genre—the Hindemith, Grainger, and Holst pieces—and a couple of premieres—the Daugherty and Bolcom. 

The first of the two first hearings, the Daugherty piece, is quite effective. Rosa Parks Boulevard (2001)honors the woman who set the Civil Rights Movement irrevocably in high gear by her refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a Birmingham, Alabama, bus in 1955. Parks moved to Detroit permanently in 1957, and after attending a Sunday church service with her in 1999, Daugherty decided to compose this musical tribute. He incorporates quotations of her favorite hymn ( Oh Freedom ), makes use of the expressive and soulful qualities of the band’s trombones, and occasionally uses colorfully clustered dissonance and such programmatic effects as polyrhythms and pounding drums to suggest the society-shaking bus ride. At 12 minutes in duration, it is a perfectly timed (in both senses of the word) and memorable musical statement. Bolcom’s short Song (2001) was written for this concert and is tuneful enough to be thought of as a “lost” movement from Lincolnshire Posy.

I love the Hindemith piece. It is one of my five or six top wind symphonies (in company with those by Persichetti, Gould, Benson, Israel, and Maslanka). Reynolds, though, does not lead the work in my favorite performance—Reynolds is too cautious in a few places where Fennell, for example, has his players light fires. It’s only an okay performance. However, I find Reynolds’ interpretations of Holst’s First Suite and the aforementioned Lincolnshire Posy by Percy Grainger, both backbones of the repertoire, quite excellent…the recording itself is superb and is nothing but another positive.

– Stephanie Ellis

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