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Sir Georg Solti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of Easley Blackwood‘s Fourth Symphony on November 22, 1978.

According to Arrand Parsons‘s program note, Blackwood “was one of several composers commissioned in 1970 by Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in celebration of the Orchestra’s 80th anniversary. Blackwood began the work on the symphony right away, and the composition has been in progress during these nearly seven years. The first movement was finished in June 1976, at the time Sir Georg Solti was taping for Unitel television the first of a subsequent series of Orchestra Hall concerts with the Orchestra. Getting ready to return to England, Sir Georg scheduled a meeting with Blackwood in the parking area behind Orchestra Hall during the television taping sessions and they reviewed the movement with the score resting on the hood of a truck. Sir Georg encouraged the composer to complete the work, and from time to time after the parking lot incident he made inquiries as to the progress of the work. The completed score in the composer’s own manuscript was delivered to Sir Georg in June 1977.”

Blackwood and Solti in 1978

The composer also contributed to the program note: “When I was first approached about the possibility of composing a work for the Chicago Symphony, it immediately occurred to me that a work for very large orchestra would be most appropriate, given the particular nature and style of the Symphony. Sir Georg was very encouraging . . .

“I find it impossible to describe in words how the three movements go, except to say that all are conceived thematically, with transformations, variations, and fluctuations in modality that are not unlike traditional classical forms. Uppermost in my mind as I composed the work, was the creation of a harmonious musical design. I made no use of serial techniques, nor of any other compositional systems. Everything is written down within the conventional notation; there are no aleatory elements, nor any quotations from other works.

“No conscious effort was made to express anything other than musical ideas. Musical ideas, by their very nature, are evocative of feelings that cover a broad spectrum. Mere self-expression of emotion, must fall far short of the communicative powers inherent within the musical medium. The determination of the true meaning of a composition is more the province of the interpreter than the composer. Of course the composer’s own interpretation is of more than a little interest, but I do not think that it is the controlling factor. I am perfectly content to let the work speak for itself.”

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