Easley Blackwood | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Easley Blackwood 

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Composer Easley Blackwood had a brief fling with modernism when he was a teenager, but by the time he graduated from Yale four decades ago, he was enamored of turn-of-the-century French symphonic music. The pendulum of his aesthetics swung leftward in the 60s and 70s, when he experimented with revisionist serialism and other radical ideas, but in the early 80s the pendulum changed direction again. His Cello Sonata (1986) and Fifth Symphony (1990), with their strong echoes of Mendelssohn and Schubert, wouldn't sound at all out of place in 1840s Vienna. (To compare two stages in his stylistic evolution, check out the new Cedille CD coupling the Fifth with his First Symphony, from 1955.) From the now archconservative Blackwood comes Seven Bagatelles, his latest attempt at rejuvenating a moribund sub- genre. The bagatelle, which means "trifle," reached the peak of its popularity (and excellence) with Beethoven's 26 contributions for piano, including "Fur Elise," known to all aspiring pianists. Blackwood's bagatelles are included in his latest solo piano recital, alongside Haydn's Sonata no. 45, Liszt's Benediction de Dieu dans la solitude, Carl Nielsen's Three Piano Pieces, and Alban Berg's Piano Sonata. The eclecticism of this hefty program reflects Blackwood's shifting tastes as well as his freedom as a performer to accept all comers. Sunday, 3 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 702-8068.

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