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Howard Blake is that rarity in the contemporary music scene, a genuinely popular composer. If he has a recent parallel, it is probably Leonard Bernstein, though he is an altogether more ‘natural’, less troubled composer than Bernstein even at his gentlest.
Blake’s reputation rests very squarely on the success of the acclaimed children’s film ‘The Snowman’ and particularly on its haunting theme ‘Walking in the Air’. Since its first performance in 1982 the piece has become a Christmas classic both in its animated form on British television and in its theatrical form as a record-breaking full-length ballet. Its merits are the classical merits par excellence, clearly audible in all Blake’s concert music.
The purity of line and lack of clutter that make ‘Walking in the Air’ so utterly and immediately memorable, is also what animates the Clarinet Concerto and complements his apparent conviction that imaginative composition is still feasible within a constantly renewing harmonic tradition. After an immensely successful period in his 20s at the peak of the London music scene, he retreated to the Sussex countryside to work again at the basic pillars of harmony and counterpoint, slowly refining a technique and language that have little in common with much contemporary academic music. His most obvious (distant) influence is Mozart, but there is also something of his one-time teacher Howard Ferguson's neo-classical idiom and a strong sense of music as a cultural adhesive, rebonding a society fractured by civilisation and its discontents. Recordings of his music grow ever-more numerous and performances and releases take place around the world. Blake is unembarrassed and unhindered by his popularity. It is, as it was with Mozart, simply a response to a spontaneous melodic gift underpinned with considerable technical skill.
(Pamela Collins, The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Composers)
Howard Blake grew up in a musical family in Brighton, attending Downs County Primary School from 1944, in 1950 winning an 11-plus scholarship to Brighton Grammar School where he sang lead soprano parts in Gilbert and Sullivan. From there at 18 he won the Hastings Festival Scholarship to The Royal Academy of Music where he studied piano with Harold Craxton and composition with Howard Ferguson. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Academy in 1988 and received the OBE for services to music from The Queen in 1994. (For a detailed history of his career go to Biography/Autobiography.)
Highbridge Music Ltd was incorporated in 1983 and is a music publishing company which exclusively publishes the works of English composer Howard Blake.
It takes its name from Highbridge Mill near Cuckfield in Sussex, a converted watermill dating from 1810 which was the composer’s home from 1971 to 1981 and a source of inspiration for many of his musical works.
He has written music for more than 50 years and during that time employed various publishers to administer his catalogue. On July 14th 2004 however he gathered in a large part of his catalogue and reorganised Highbridge Music to provide a hands-on service to those who wish to hire or buy his music.
The new 2006 website was created from a comprehensive database of his entire varied output, which amounts to over 650 opus numbers. His works can be browsed by category, viewed as a chronological list or searched using the search box at the top of every page, whilst certain works are available as sheet music for download.
(Howard Blake and Highbridge Music Ltd are members of MCPS-PRS Alliance and MPA)