In Retrospect was composed in 1959 while I was a doctoral student at the Eastman School of Music. Later that year it was given its first reading by Howard Hanson and the Eastman Philharmonia, and it received its first performances by the Alma Symphony in Lakeview and Alma, Michigan on March 13 and 14, 1962, under my direction.
Since then, the piece has been performed many times throughout the country. It is a short, nostalgic work which expresses a feeling of looking back, of sadness at closing a set of doors in one’s life, and simultaneously, the feeling of apprehension, the fear of the unknown as to what lies ahead. In the frontispiece of the score I quoted St. Paul in his magnificent letter to the Corinthians, “when I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became an adult, I put away childish things.” I was 23 when these feelings sprang up and expressed themselves in this music.
Now, over 40 years later, I find the piece still expresses the feelings one has at a big juncture in one’s life. I retired in 1997 after 24 years of teaching at Rice University, and walking out of my studio for the last time evinced the feeling of knowing sadness expressed in In Retrospect. I think perhaps this is a universal feeling of all human beings with our capacity for memory and for looking in retrospect.
Cast in three part (ABA) form, the work is scored for small orchestra (winds in pairs plus one trombone, timpani, bells, and strings).
Program Notes by Samuel Jones