Blackwood: Symphonies 5 & 1 / Munch, Depreist

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These two fine symphonies belong in the collection of anyone who enjoys contemporary music of a more traditional or conservative bent. Not that they are easy listening: Symphony No. 1, which has a much higher level of dissonance than No. 5, brings to mind Honegger's thornier inspirations; but like that composer, Blackwood does not sacrifice expressiveness as a result. His melodies (and there are quite a few here) are all characterful and cover a wide range of emotion. The humorous opening of the scherzo provides one example. Best of all, the piece gets a scorcher of a performance from Charles Munch and the BSO in a vintage Living Stereo recording licensed from RCA, sounding very good here, if a touch congested in loud passages. The climax at the end of the first movement is positively apocalyptic!

The Fifth Symphony, according to the composer, was written in an idiom that recalls "modernized Sibelius"--and that description is exactly right. You'll find the same evocative string textures, writing for winds in thirds, and so forth, but all are presented in a more advanced (but by no means harsh) harmonic idiom. It's a lovely, poetic work, and this 1993 live performance does it justice. If the First deserves respect, you may well find yourself feeling a good bit of affection for this beautifully-crafted later piece. The audience is well-behaved, and the sonics are very natural, warm, and clear. An excellent introduction to a very talented and worthy composer/pianist (try Blackwood's excellent Ives "Concord" Sonata for another facet of his musical personality), not to mention an important addition to the Munch/BSO discography.
--David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: CDR 016

  • UPC: 735131901628

  • Label: Cedille

  • Composer: Easley Blackwood

  • Conductor: Charles Munch, James DePreist

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra


  1. Symphony no 1, Op. 3

    Composer: Easley Blackwood

    Ensemble: Boston Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Charles Munch

  2. Symphony no 5, Op. 34

    Composer: Easley Blackwood

    Ensemble: Chicago Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: James DePreist