John Bruce Yeh And Easley Blackwood | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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John Bruce Yeh And Easley Blackwood

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As founding members of the Grammy-winning Chicago Pro Musica, Easley Blackwood and John Bruce Yeh have collaborated regularly since 1979, but it wasn't until last year that Blackwood, a renowned composer, wrote works specifically for Yeh, a longtime Chicago Symphony Orchestra clarinetist. Both pieces, Sonata for Clarinet in A and Piano and Sonatina for Piccolo Clarinet in E-flat and Piano, are deliberate throwbacks--the results of Blackwood's recent controversial decision to revive and mimic 19th-century styles and sensibilities. The large-scale, three-movement sonata recalls lushly romantic, Faure-like impressionism sprinkled with Scriabin-esque chromatic touches here and there. The sonatina is a fluidly Schubertian miniature, in which the piano and the E-flat piccolo clarinet (played with German-style fingering) engage in a round of delectable duets. Both studies reflect Blackwood's encyclopedic knowledge of harmony theory, a topic he's taught at the University of Chicago for over three decades. As if contrasting the radicalism of the early 20th century with Blackwood's latent conservatism, Yeh has scheduled Berg's Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano (1913), terse works dedicated to Schoenberg that eschew harmony in favor of odd sounds and extremes in dynamics and expressivity. The Sonata in B-flat Major (1908) by Max Reger, like Berg a believer in nonprogrammatic music, is included as an example of fascinating harmonies and chromatic leaps. Blackwood, also a distinguished pianist, partners Yeh in this free recital, which will be recorded for Cedille, a local classical label. Monday, 8 PM, concert hall, DePaul University, 800 W. Belden; 362-8373.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Dewey Hentges Photography.

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