Friday, December 12, 2003

William Black, 51, respected CCM prof


Piano virtuoso performed worldwide

By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

William Black's legacy includes his historic recording of demanding Rachmaninoff compositions, a cadre of music students, and 2-year-old twins.

A much-loved professor of piano at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, he was so devoted to his students - his second family, according to colleague Frank Weinstock - that he served them Thanksgiving dinner every year.

"Even this last Thanksgiving, when he was close to dying, he had all the students" over, Weinstock said.

Mr. Black, 51, died Wednesday of cancer.

"During his illness, the only time that he really got upset was when he would consider the prospect of the twins growing up without knowing him," Weinstock said. "In a personal way, that's the greatest loss - to his wife and children."

And the musical world lost an "excellent performer and a very respected teacher - somebody who took his work seriously."

Mr. Black - who performed throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia - received effusive praise in many reviews of his work.

The New York Times said his "playing was marked with clarity, humor and intelligence." While the Los Angeles Times declared it "crystalline pianism."

In 1991, Mr. Black made a historic premiere recording of the original version of Sergei Rachmaninoff's 4th Piano Concerto, with Igor Buketoff conducting the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.

"It is the only recording of the first version that Rachmaninoff wrote of that concerto," Weinstock said. "As was typical of Rachmaninoff, he revised the work later. Bill went back to the first version. In a historical sense, it's important to have that documented. ... Basically, nobody plays that version. It is very difficult."

Born and raised in Dallas, Mr. Black held a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's and doctorate from the Juilliard School. He also studied at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. He joined the CCM faculty in 1987. At the time of his death, he served as chair of the piano department.

He performed at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Recital Hall in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington.

"He was a gifted artist with a keen ear for interesting music," said CCM dean Douglas Lowry. "He was a most capable leader of his department and one of the warmest, most genuine human beings we've had the honor of counting on as a colleague."

In addition to his twins, Catherine and Samuel, survivors include: his wife, Anne; his father, Frank Black of Dallas; his mother, Gladys Verrill, also of Dallas; and a sister, Beverly Black of Asheville, N.C.

A memorial service is 2 p.m. Saturday at Norman Chapel at Spring Grove Cemetery.

Memorials: William Black Memorial Fund, c/o College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, P.O. Box 210003, Cincinnati 45221.




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