If you're going to write a concerto inspired by the majesty of the Mississippi River, one appropriate voice would have to be the deep, otherworldly tuba - so often heard in everyday orchestral life but rarely in solos. Or did the tuba idea come first and the river second?
Whatever the motivation, Michael Daugherty's Reflections on the Mississippi was a charmer at its world premiere by Philadelphia Orchestra's Carol Jantsch and the Temple University Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, in the ensemble's annual Kimmel Center concert.
Nostalgia and rustic Americana are not what one expects from Daugherty, who made his name on works that mined pop-culture superheros for serious American archetypes. The Mississippi layers are impressionistic. Movements have titles - "Mist," "Steamboat" - though they weren't needed given how the music made you feel the river's humidity.