Pianist Raymond Jackson is an active exponent of the music of 20th-century black American composers, and as part of his recital Sunday at the Lyceum in Alexandria, he played two excellent examples of this important but often neglected music.
After opening with Chopin (the Berceuse, two well-played Waltzes and a powerful, exciting interpretation of the G Minor Ballade No. 1, only slightly flawed by a sloppy Presto), Jackson turned to George Walker, a contemporary black composer solidly within the European tradition.
Jackson played Walker's Sonata No. 1 (1953) with solidity and a sure understanding of this difficult work. The Moderato, which bases its wild and diverse variations on the poignant Kentucky folk song "O Bury Me Under the Willow," was particularly moving.
"In the Bottoms Suite" (1913) by Robert N. Dett is from an earlier, but musically just as sophisticated, American era. Its title refers to life in the river bottoms of Louisiana, and it is full of folk references: banjo picking, humming on the porch, lovers talking. Except (again) for looseness at the peak of the final "Juba Dance," it was a fine, enlightening performance.
The program closed with Debussy, Ravel and, as encore, the Schubert Op. 90 Impromptu.