July 2005

Easley Blackwood - Chamber Music for Piano and Strings
Easley Blackwood, piano; Charles Pikler, violin and viola; Gary Stucka, cello
Cedille Records CDR 90000 081
Format: CD
Released: 2005

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

I have never been a big fan of most late-20th-century orchestral music. It is often too atonal, with not enough melody for my tastes. However, Easley Blackwood’s new disc of compositions written between 1953 and 2001 is a notable exception.

It contains Blackwood's Second Viola Sonata, Op. 1, the First Violin Sonata, Op. 7, the Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano, Op.22, and the First Viola Sonata, Op. 43. In the well-written, self-penned liner notes, Blackwood claims not to have a signature style -- that he can write exactly whatever is commissioned from him. Listening to this disc gives one nothing to counter that idea. He likens his Op.1 to a cross between Berg and Messiaen, and Op. 7 to the manner of Hindemith. Op. 22 is "an atonal, polyrhythmic idiom...its style most nearly resembles both Elliott Carter and Charles Ives," and Op. 43 should suggest Bartók and Prokofiev. I hear late-period Romantic elements, too.

Recorded digitally in 24-bit resolution, the sonic quality of this CD is outstanding. There is clear string tone and very good size and weight given to Blackwood’s piano. Despite a generous 71 minutes of playing time, this disc seems to fly by, leaving me wanting more.