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Easley BLACKWOOD (b.1933)
Second Viola Sonata Op.43 (2001) [24.09]
First Violin Sonata Op.7 (1960) [16.39]
Piano Trio Op.22 (1968) [16.35]
First Viola Sonata Op.1 (1953) [13.57]
Charles Pikler (violin and viola)
Gary Stucka (cello)
Easley Blackwood (piano)
Recorded at WFMT Chicago 2002 and December 2004
CEDILLE RECORDS CDR 90000 081 [71.48]


This quartet of chamber works by Easley Blackwood is presented in roughly reverse chronological order beginning with the most recent, the Second Viola Sonata of 2001. This is a traditional five-movement work of some twenty-four minutes and its ethos is markedly late-Romantic; "distinctly conservative" is the composerís own description. The Brahmsian debt is fairly clear and the high point is the fine lyric trio section, redolent of the late nineteenth century that sits surrounded by more active material. The fourth movement is a rather melancholy fantasia.

The First Violin Sonata was written in 1960 and is an altogether tougher nut. Though he cites Hindemith and Schoenberg as influential here itís the latter that seems the more ascendant. Cast in three movements the Adagio has toughly lyric playing in alt and the finale is full of raspy drama. Itís this movement that most catches the ear Ė pizzicato-laced and dynamic it has some moments of fugitive Hindemithian lyricism amidst the obsessive patterns rendered by the piano. This is a strong, not especially ingratiating but powerful statement.

The 1968 Trio was a product of Darmstadt influence. Its wintry atonality is competently presented and its sombre cast is reinforced by a tightly argued schema. It makes no attempt to appeal to much other than the cerebral and I found it alarmingly off-putting. Busy, clotted writing informs the opening movement of the First Viola Sonata of 1953, his opus 1. Here at least we find Blackwood giving in to a penchant for lyricism, and in the fast second movement the two instruments take it in turns to make their statements before some increasingly urgent material is unleashed. Here the fulsome and the terse co-exist to mutual benefit.

Blackwood is himself the pianist and is joined by able colleagues. The notes are also the composerís own. I found the lack of consonance between the recent Viola Sonata and the other works both remarkable and perplexing; extremes of this kind require sympathetic listening.

Jonathan Woolf


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