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(January 29th 2013)
Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians states that ‘Howard Blake has achieved fame as pianist, conductor and composer.’ Born on October 28th 1938, he grew up in Sussex, from the age of 11 singing lead roles as a boy soprano and at 18 winning the Hastings Festival Scholarship to The Royal Academy of Music where he studied piano with Harold Craxton and composition with Howard Ferguson.
Over an intensely active career he has written numerous film scores, including 'The Duellists' with Ridley Scott which gained the Special Jury Award at the Cannes Festival, 'A Month in the Country' with Kenneth Branagh and Colin Firth which gained him the British Film Institute Anthony Asquith Award for musical excellence, and 'The Snowman', which was nominated for an Oscar after its first screening and has won many other prizes internationally. His famous song ‘Walking in the Air’, for which he also wrote the lyrics, was the chart success that launched Aled Jones in 1985, whilst the concert version for narrator and orchestra is performed world-wide as is the full-length ballet, with 15 consecutive seasons for Sadler’s Wells. Howard has composed many concert works, including a Piano Concerto commissioned by The Philharmonia Orchestra for the 30th birthday of Princess Diana in which he also featured as soloist: a Violin Concerto to celebrate the centenary of the City of Leeds; a cantata to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations Organization, performed in the presence of the Royal Family; and the large-scale choral/orchestral work 'Benedictus', first championed by Sir David Willcocks, Robert Tear and the Bach Choir, given its London premiere in Westminster Cathedral with Cardinal Hume as narrator and widely performed since.
Since 2006 he has made three CDs for Naxos including a recording of 'The Passion of Mary' with Patricia Rozario, Richard Edgar Wilson, David Wilson-Johnson and the Royal Philharmonic. A concert performance of this is scheduled at Snape Maltings in Benjamin Britten's centenary year.
In 2010 the cellist Benedict Kloeckner won the EBU prize for best young musician by performing Howard's 'Diversions for cello and piano' and in 2013 he will be performing the orchestral version with the Berlin Kammerorchestra and on tour.
In September 2012 Sir Neville Marriner completed the recording of an album of Howard's woodwind concertos with The Orchestra of St. Martin in the Fields and distinguished soloists including his own son Andrew. This is due for release on Pentatone at Easter 2013.
April 2012 saw the release of a remarkable film made by NASA of the world viewed from space in time-lapse photography set to Howard's own original Sinfonia of London recording of 'Walking in the Air' with treble Peter Auty.
In 2013 much of his solo piano music is being recorded for Decca by Vladimir Ashkenazy - his son Vovka joining him in the works for two pianos.
He was made a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in 1988 and received the OBE for services to music from the Queen in 1994.