Alfred Reed (1921-2005) was born in New York City. He studied composition at the Juilliard School with Vittorio Giannini after a tour in the US Air Force during World War II. He was later a staff arranger for NBC in the 1950s and a professor of music at Miami University from 1966 to 1993. He is remembered today as a distinguished educator, conductor, and composer. His impact was the greatest in the wind band world, where he left behind more than 100 frequently performed works. He was particularly popular in Japan, where he developed a close relationship with the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra, and where many of his works are required literature for all bands.
The Hounds of Spring was inspired by the poem Atlanta in Calydon by Algernon Charles Swinburne. Reed quotes it and describes the inspiration it gave him in his own program notes on the piece:
When the hounds of spring are on winter’s traces,
The mother of months in meadow or plain
Fills the shadows and windy places
With lisp of leaves and ripple of rain
And soft as lips that laugh and hide
The laughing leaves of the trees divide,
And screen from seeing and leave in sight
The god pursuing, the maiden hid.
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Atlanta in Calydon
“When the hounds of spring are on winter’s traces,” a magical picture of young love in springtime, forms the basis for the present purely musical setting, in traditional three-part overture form, of this lovely paean… an attempt to capture the twin elements of the poem, exuberant youthful gaiety and the sweetness of tender love, in an appropriate musical texture.
The poem, a recreation in modern English of an ancient Greek tragedy, appeared in print in 1865, when the poet was 28 years old. It made Algernon Swinburne literally an overnight success.
The Hounds of Spring was commissioned by, and is dedicated to, the John L. Forster Secondary School Symphonic Band of Windsor, Ontario, and its director, Gerald A.N. Brown. The first performance took place in Windsor on May 8th, 1980, by the aforementioned group, under the direction of the composer.
An anonymous band plays The Hounds of Spring on Youtube:
This piece is a senior selection for trumpeter and scholar Aaron Liskov.