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.
Reed wrote Imperatrix as a middle school band piece in 1972. While it isn’t a specifically programmatic piece, the title (it’s the Latin word for empress) suggests something elegant, epic, and ancient. Says Reed about Imperatrix:
Imperatrix, A Concert Overture for Band, was commissioned by, and is dedicated to, the G. P. Babb Junior High School Band of Forest Park, Georgia, and its director, Donald E. Wilkes. The work was written early in 1972, and the first performance took place on April 7th, 1972, when the Babb Junior High School Symphonic Band appeared at a concert given for the Georgia Music Educators Association All-State Junior High School Band and Orchestra meeting, with Mr. Wilkes conducting.
The music is in sectional form, opening with a broad introduction that states all of the thematic material from which the work will be built. This is followed by a brilliant Allegro, commencing with a fanfare-like figure in the Brass and proceeding through a hard-driving development in non-traditional harmonic structures that finally dies away as the third section begins. This contrasting episode is built up from a long, lyrical line sung by all of the Flutes in unison over a rich, warm and quiet background in the Clarinets, Baritones and Tuba. The closing cadence of this section, like that of the first, leads back to the Allegro once again, which this time drives on into the Coda where all of the themes are restated in the brightest colors of the Band. The work ends with a joyous and triumphant conclusion.
Imperatrix on Youtube: