Sony reissues “Black Composers Series” as 10-CD boxed set

Posted on: April 14, 2021

In the 1970s, “Columbia Masterworks joined up with Afro-American Music Opportunities Organization (AAMOA) to start the Black Composers Series, a sequence of albums that would give major-label exposure to a whole lineup of neglected figures,” writes Richard Ginell in Sunday’s (4/11) San Francisco Classical Voice. “Columbia spared nothing … enlisting top-flight orchestras—the London Symphony … the Detroit and Baltimore Symphonies and Helsinki Philharmonic…. Paul Freeman, one of just a few working Black conductors of classical music, served as artistic director and conductor…. Sony … two years ago [reissued] all nine Black Composers Series albums in a handsome, compact, inexpensive box, adding as a bonus another Freeman album, Symphonic Spirituals…. The set launches with … Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, whose delightful Symphony No. 1 is a slice of Haydn classical language…. José Mauricio Nunes Garcia’s Requiem Mass is good enough to substitute for Mozart’s well-trodden Requiem…. Of the modernist pieces, two in particular stand out … Ulysses Kay’s Markings [and] Olly Woodrow Wilson’s … fascinating, turbulent Akwan…. This project’s timespan extends only up to the 1970s…. But it does provide a benchmark, a tutorial on where Black classical music has been and what the possibilities are for future performances.”