Review By Walter Simmons ,Fanfare,July 2009
This recent release of two hefty symphonies from Naxos American Classics represents my introduction to the music of Adolphus Hailstork. Now in his late sixties, Hailstork was born in Rochester, N.Y., and was educated at the Manhattan School of Music and Michigan State University. He is currently a professor at Old Dominian University in Norfolk, Virginia, and has received many distinguished awards and commissions.
Review By Gimbel,American Record Guide,June 2007
Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941) is a black American composer currently Eminent Scholar and Professor of Music at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He studied primarily with H Owen Reed at Michigan State, but also worked with David Diamond and Vittorio Giannini at the Manhattan School of Music in the 60s, and with Nadia Boulanger as well. With that background, one would expect Mr Hailstork to be firmly entrenched in old-fashioned American symphonic tradition, and that is indeed exactly what we get here.
Review By Steven Ritter,Audiophile Audition,May 2007
Music that will surprise and delight, from an esoteric source.
This composer is a man known to me only by name—I had never heard any of his music before this disc arrived. He is not exactly a stranger to recordings, but there are only a few devoted solely to his music. Still, a talent like this deserves to be heard, and I am a little embarrassed that I have not encountered him before, despite the fact that he seems quite successful particularly in the choral realm, and has had some big names perform his work. I guess you can’t hear everybody. more....
Review By Scot Cantrell,The Dallas Morning News,May 2007
COMPOSER OF COLOR: Sadly, a black composer of concert music is still unusual enough to warrant comment. One who's had success is Adolphus Hailstork, born in 1941 in Rochester, N.Y., educated at the Manhattan School of Music and Michigan State University. Holding a doctorate from Michigan State, he's artist-in-residence at Old Dominion University in Virginia.
Review By Bob McQuiston,Classical Lost and Found,February 2007
These two symphonies by American composer Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941) are well worth calling to your attention. Written in the last ten years, they're both in the standard four movements and fall into the late romantic category. They're full of those wonderful western sounding rhythms and themes so typical of American composers like Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland and Don Gillis. The second symphony opens in a sinister way with what almost sounds like an American Indian war dance. Repeated highly rhythmic passages, which must be a Hailstork calling card, lead to an eerie, more subdued central section. The war dance then resumes and the movement concludes just like it began. The grave which follows is a mournful extended chorale that's quite affecting and a great showpiece for more....
Review By Patrick C Waller,MusicWeb International,March 2006
Adolphus Hailstork was a name previously unfamiliar to me. I volunteered to review the disc partly out of curiosity and also because, in my experience, the Naxos American Classics series hasn’t yet produced a dud. And that hasn’t changed because these two symphonies, the product of the last decade or so, are certainly worth a place in the catalogue. Within the confines of conventional structures and harmonies – which has the benefit of making the music immediately approachable – Hailstork manages to write symphonies that appeal without being trivial, rather as George Lloyd did before him on the other side of the Atlantic. Born in Rochester, New York he studied composition in Michigan and lists Nadia Boulanger and David Diamond amongst his teachers. Since 1977
The Third Symphony is given before the second, presumably because it is considerably lighter in feeling. To quote the composer, a catchy trumpet tune is used “as the point of departure”. This spawns some of the later material without being as all-encompassing as the trumpet solo which opens Schmidt’s Fourth Symphony. The movement is marked Vivace and is notable later on for imaginative use of percussion, including the marimba. The movement which follows feels slow but is actually marked Moderato, and it is a gem. This is song-like, deeply felt and contains some wonderful string writing. A scherzo follows attacca and percussion are once again prominent, supporting the complex rhythmic material. A central section is no trio but blues-derived. The finale is by turns angular, reflective and then joyous as the trumpet theme returns and is amplified to provide a satisfying conclusion to a most attractive work.
The Second Symphony is a tougher nut to crack but equally rewarding. It was partly inspired by a visit to Ghana where the composer saw the dungeons in which slaves were held before being shipped to America. The composer wrote it whilst reflecting on the struggle against slavery but it is not overtly programmatic. The work is structurally similar to the third symphony – four movements with the slow movement second – but there is also a slow introduction to the finale beginning with a notable and beautifully rendered clarinet solo. The opening Allegro is initially frightening – the brass positively screams over initially passive strings – and it then builds up considerable momentum. The second movement is elegiac, a brooding cor anglais solo framing some darkly powerful music which is certainly evocative of dungeons. The dance-like third movement offers some light relief but not to the exclusion of a feeling of struggle. That feeling is ultimately only overcome at the very end of the finale – an optimistic but hardly jubilant close.
The Grand Rapids Symphony hails from Michigan and their conductor David Lockington from Britain although he has been resident in the USA in 1978. They commissioned the Third Symphony and have championed the music of this composer. Clearly a fine orchestra, their playing is agile and clean, and Lockington’s direction of both works is lucid.
The recorded sound is rather good and serves the music well. Liner notes are uncredited and on the brief side. The space saved is given over to listing all the performing musicians, quite a few of whom are designated “supplemental”, emphasising the fairly large forces involved.
This is a fine addition to the American Classics series. These works push back no boundaries but support the notion that the symphony may yet be alive and well.