BENEDICTUS op.282 (May 1980)


Dramatic oratorio for tenor, speaker, chorus, solo viola and orchestra
Published by: Highbridge Music Ltd
Commissioned by: Victor Farwell, Abbot of Worth, for the 1500th anniversary St. Benedict of Nursia b.450 AD
Instrumentation: Tenor, male speaker(St. Benedict), SATB chorus, semi-chorus(opt.), trebles (opt.), solo viola. (NB the viola part is demanding and best played by a soloist separate from the orchestra. In a cathedral performance the Prelude to part 1 should be performed from the west end, the back of the nave, the Introduction to Part 2 from the central chancel screen crossing, and the Epilogue from the ambulatory behind the altar, the idea being to convey the progress of the novice.)
Orchestra: 2(=picc).1.ca.0.2 - 2220 - perc(2): timp/t.bell/xyl/2 susp.cym/cyms/glsp/SD/mar/tgl/tam-t; pno (=cel); organ (opt.); harp; strings
[Key to Abbreviations]
Note on Lyrics: Text compiled by the composer from "The Rule of St Benedict" and "The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson (see Lyrics)
Duration: 65 mins
First Performance:

First performance, unrevised version: Richard Lewis (tenor), The National Philharmonic Orchestra leader Sidney Sax, solo viola Frederick Riddle, Ditchling Choral Society conducted by Janet Canetty-Clarke, Worth Abbey, May 17th, 1980

World Premiere, final revised version: Robert Tear, St. Albans Bach Choir, Cathedral Choir and Royal College of Music chamber choir, English Chamber Orchestra (solo viola Frederick Riddle), Sir David Willcocks (conductor), speaker The Dean of St. Alban's; St Albans Cathedral, January 25th 1986


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Recordings Available
Benedictus
Released: 1989
Recorded: 1989
Artists: Robert Tear (tenor), Andrew Williams (viola), The Bach Choir, Boy choristers of St. Paul's Cathedral, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir David Willcocks
Available from: Amazon UK Amazon US Sony Classical

*Recorded by Robert Tear (tenor),The Bach Choir, Boy Choristers of St Paul`s Cathedral, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrew Williams,solo viola, Sir David Willcocks,conductor, Abbey Road Studios, 1988. SONY CDHB2

Available from Highbridge, Amazon and dealers

The full text is available on request

*In 2015 the 12'' vinyl LP has been re-released on ESPRIT, 27 years after its original recording for Sony

Movements

  • 1: Prelude:Solo viola
  • 2: Chorus:Ausculta, O filii
  • 3: Tenor solo and chorus:Lord who shall dwell
  • 4: Chorus:We have piped unto you
  • 5: Tenor solo and chorus:Lord who shall dwell?
  • 6: Chorus and tenor solo:how lovely is thy dwelling-place?
  • 7: Chorus:Noviter veniens
  • 8: Tenor solo and chorus:I fled him down the nights
  • 9: Chorus:Domine scrutaris
  • 10: Tenor solo and chorus:Suscipe me
  • 11: Chorus:Bless the Lord
  • 12: Chorus:Processu conversationis
  • 13: Postlude:Solo viola

Notes

The composition of the work and its first performance were assisted by funds from the Vaughan Williams Trust

The viola prelude is available as a separate concert piece. (op.402)


Performances

18th November 2018 Olov Risberg, St. Gorans Stockholm, Sweden, tbc

tbc

11th March 2017
- 22nd March 2017
Two-act ballet, the score consisting of major musical works and excerpts of works by Howard Blake. Scenario, Choreography and Direction by Robert North, Various performances have been given at Monnchen-Gladbach Opera from 14th May - August 2016 Theater Krefeld opened their run of the work on October 2nd 2016 for various performances up to March 22nd 2017

Ballett von Robert North
Musik von Howard Blake (*1938)
Sopran solo Sophie Witte. Niederrheinische Sinfoniker and choir conducted by Alexander Steinitz

14th May 2016
- 8th July 2016
Ballet by Robert North, Music by Howard Blake, 20 performances in Monnchen Gladbach Opera House (and more planned for Krefeld Opera House) *Matinee at 11.15am on 8th May at the opera house when the creative team talked about the creation of the work. Premiere 14th May. *Premiere to take place at the opera house at 7.30pm on Saturday 14th May

Two-act ballet, the score consisting of major musical works and excerpts of works by Howard Blake. Scenario, Choreography and Direction by Robert North

Eine Frau ohne Namen (UA)

Ballett von Robert North
Musik von Howard Blake (*1938)

Eine Frau, der wir vielleicht auf der Straße, im Café oder im Kino zufällig begegnen, ist die namenlose Protagonistin in dem neuen Handlungsballett von Ballettdirektor Robert North. Beispielhaft für alle Frauen, die ihr Leben bewusst gestalten und Sinn und Erfüllung darin finden, stellt North eine ‚Frau ohne Namen’ in den Fokus seiner Choreografie und kreiert so auf feinfühlige und besonnene Weise ein tänzerisches Plädoyer für Selbstbestimmung und Individualität.
Einfühlsam entwickelt er ihre Lebensgeschichte, beginnend mit der symbolischen Geburt: Ein Mädchen tritt in den Kreis des Lebens, wächst heran, verliebt sich. Das junge Paar heiratet, Kinder kommen zur Welt. Familiäres Glück geht einher mit beruflichem Erfolg: Die Frau ist eine kreative und fantasievolle Autorin. So tanzt sie durchs Leben, Jahr um Jahr verrinnt. Am Ende stirbt die Frau ohne Namen in den Armen ihres Mannes – und findet sich im Jenseits wieder, vom Chor der Engel fröhlich willkommen geheißen. Diese allegorische Geschichte stellt das irdische Leben in einen umfassenden existentiellen Zusammenhang und nimmt in künstlerisch freier Interpretation auch auf Motive aus der Mythologie Bezug. Die Musik zu “Eine Frau ohne Namen” komponierte Howard Blake, der vor allem durch Filmmusiken, u. a. zu dem weltbekannten Animationsfilm “The Snowman”, in seiner Heimat Großbritannien, aber auch international bekannt wurde.
Seit vielen Jahren verbindet ihn eine freundschaftliche Zusammenarbeit mit Robert North: So entstand 1996 im Auftrag des Göteborger Opernhauses das Ballett “Eva”, welches nun nach gründlicher Revision unter dem neuen Titel “Eine Frau ohne Namen” am Theater Krefeld und Mönchengladbach vorgestellt wird. Howard Blake schrieb eine Partitur im klassischen Stil für großes Sinfonieorchester mit Solovioline, die sich in Prolog und zwei Akte (Das Leben einer Frau /Tod und Jenseits) gliedert. Durch Einsatz der menschlichen Stimme erweitert Blake die Ausdrucksmöglichkeiten: Eine Sopranistin und der gemischte Chor bilden eine zusätzliche musikalische Ebene, die an die Struktur eines Oratoriums erinnert.

Vorstellungen

///// Theater Mönchengladbach
08.05.16: Matinee zu Eine Frau ohne Namen
So 08. 05. 2016
11:15 Uhr // Karten
Premiere
Sa 14. 05. 2016
19:30 Uhr // Karten
Do 19. 05. 2016
19:30 Uhr // Karten
So 22. 05. 2016
18:00 Uhr // Karten
Fr 10. 06. 2016
19:30 Uhr // Karten
Di 14. 06. 2016
19:30 Uhr // Karten
Sa 18. 06. 2016
19:30 Uhr // Karten
Sa 25. 06. 2016
19:30 Uhr // Karten
Mi 06. 07. 2016
19:30 Uhr // Karten
Fr 08. 07. 2016
19:30 Uhr // Karten


Besetzung

Musikalische Leitung: Alexander Steinitz
Choreografie: Robert North
Choreografieassistenz: Sheri Cook
Bühne und Kostüme: Udo Hesse
Dramaturgie: Regina Härtling

Eine Frau: Karine Andrei-Sutter, Elisa Rossignoli
Ihre Eltern: Cecile Medour, Luca Ponti
Eine Freundin: Elisa Rossignoli, Teresa Levrini
Erster Ehemann: Alessandro Borghesani
Zweiter Ehemann: Raphael Peter
Kinder: Polina Petkova, Paolo Franco
Freunde: Takashi Kondo, Giuseppe Lazzara
Engel: Victoria Hay
Damen: Irene van Dijk, Jessica Gillo, Victoria Hay, Teresa Levrini, Cecile Medour, Yasuko Mogi, Zinnia Nomura, Polina Petkova, Amelia Seth
Herren: Marco Antonio, Alessandro Borghesani, Paolo Franco, Abine Leao Ka, Robin Perizonius, Raphael Peter, Luca Ponti, Radoslaw Rusiecki

 

15th December 2012 William Kendall (solo tenor), Rosalind Ventris (solo viola) Chelsea Opera Group, conductor David Halls, Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire

Salisbury Music Society will give performances of Bach's 'Magnificat' and Blakes's major dramatic oratorio 'Benedictus'

20th November 2012 Andras Schiff, Minterne, Dorchester, Dorset

The Lady Dione Digby has invited Howard as one of many guests attending the farewell concert of Dorset Summer Music, which she has directed with remarkable insight, vigour and dedication over an astonishing 50 years. In 1998 she decided to stage a performance of Howard's dramatic oratorio 'Benedictus' in Sherborne Abbey with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta and Winchester Cathedral Choir and it was the success of this concert which resulted in the commission of a 'Stabat Mater', later revised and expanded into 'The Passion of Mary'. Many distinguished artists have performed at The Lady Digby's festival over these amazing 50 years and among pianists are featured the names of Alfred Brendel, Tamas Vasary and Andras Schiff - invited to give the final celebratory concert.

17th March 2012 Philip O'Brien, Cantata Choir, Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra (solo viola Roslind Ventris), conductor Jonathan Butcher, speaker Nathan Thomas, The Medina Theatre, Newport,Cowes, Isle of Wight
25th April 2009 Richard Edgar-Wilson, Lexden Choral Society and Colchester Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sarah Blake, Charter Hall, Colchester, Essex
17th November 2007 Martyn Hill (tenor), St.Alban's Bach Choir and Sinfonia Verdi conducted by Andrew Lucas, Cathedral & Abbey Church of St Alban, St.Alban's Herts

21st anniversary of the premiere of the revised version given in the cathedral in 1986. Also Vivaldi's 'Gloria'

1st April 2007 South West Florida Symphony Orchestra and Chorus,tenor soloist Bryce Westervelt, conducted by Joseph Caulkin, Fort Myers, Florida, USA
22nd April 2006 Erskine Stuart's Melville Community Choir and orchestra led by Deirdre Smith, solo tenor Steven Griffin, solo viola Michael Beeston, conductor Norman Mitchell, Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh
7th November 2004 Darren Abrahams (tenor), Arun Choral Society, Sinfonia of Arun, Dorset House School Boys Choir, solo viola Elisabeth Peskett, speaker Monsignor Jeffrey Scott, Arundel Cathedral, Arundel, Sussex.
13th December 2003 William Kendall (tenor), David Halls (conductor), The Rt.Revd Michael Mayne, former Dean of Westminster Abbey(speaker), orchestra & chorus of The Salisbury Music Society, Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury, Wiltshire.
9th June 2001 Jeffrey Cresswell, Lexden Choral Society, Colchester Voiceworks and Felsted Children's Choir; Sarah Blake (conductor); performance specially choreographed by graduates of the Royal Academy of Dancing, Charter Hall, Colchester, Essex
18th November 2000 Andrew Phillips (tenor), Cantemus Choir, The Chantry Quire, Dorset School House Choristers, Stewart Harper (conductor), Andrew Benians, (organ), Church of the Holy Spirit, Southsea, Hampshire
4th November 2000 Harrogate Choral Society, Ripon Cathedral, Ripon, Yorkshire

Funded by the Millenium Experience Company and relating the work to that of The Venerable Bede as part of a cultural programme for 2000

22nd May 1999 Richard Jenkinson, East Grinstead Choral Society, East Grinstead, Sussex
16th May 1998 William Kendall, Winchester Cathedral Choir, Bournemouth Sinfonietta conducted by David Hill, Sherborne Abbey, Dorset
19th October 1997 Anders Andersson, Stockholm Boys Choir, St Gorans Choirs and orchestra, solo viola Lars Anders Tomte, conductor Olov Risberg, St Gorans Church, Stockholm, Sweden
23rd March 1996 James Oxley, The Chichester Singers, Bedales School Choir, Southern Pro Musica, Jonathan Willcocks (cond), Chichester Cathedral, Sussex
December 1995 Sir David Willcocks, Greenlake Festival, Wisconsin, USA
December 1995 Jonathan Willcocks, Chichester Cathedral, Sussex
December 1994 Maldwyn Davies (tenor), Scunthorpe & District Choral Society, Scunthorpe Co-operative Junor Choir, East of England Orchestra, Dr Donald Hunt (conductor), Thomas Holme (narrator), Baths Hall, Scunthorpe, Yorkshire

An all-Howard Blake concert programme, unusually but succesfully combining 'Nursery Rhyme Overture'and 'The Snowman' with 'Benedictus' to a capacity family audience

14th May 1994 Walter Dixon (tenor), Jersey Festival Choir, Royal College of Music Orchestra, Wesley Grove Methodist Church Jersey, Channel Islands
4th May 1994 Bridgewater & District Choral Society, St. Mary's Church, Bridgewater, Somerset
19th February 1994 Julian Podger, Romsey Choral Society, Chameleon Arts Orchestra, conductor David Truslove, Romsey Abbey, Hampshire
7th November 1992 Crawley Concordia, Jonathan Butcher, Hawth Arts Centre, Crawley, Sussex
7th November 1992 Portsmouth Choral Union, Jonathan Willcocks, Portsmouth Cathedral, Hampshire
22nd May 1992 Martyn Hill (tenor), Chester Bach Choir, Malcolm Bussey (conductor), Chester Cathedral, Cheshire
7th March 1992 Martyn Hill, Guildford Philharmonic Choir, Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir David Willcocks, Guildford Cathedral, Surrey
15th December 1990 William Kendall, Waynefleet Singers, Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire
20th May 1990 Robert Tear, Ditchling Choral Society, Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra, Choristers of Hurstpierpoint College, Janet Canetty-Clarke, St Bartholomews Church Brighton

An all-Howard Blake concert programme including the Clarinet Concerto played by Emma Johnson

2nd June 1989 Robert Tear (tenor), The Bach Choir & the choristers of St Paul's Cathedral, The Philharmonia led by Bradley Cresswick, solo viola John Chambers, conducted by Sir David Willcocks, speaker The Revd. Donald Reeves, Royal Festival Hall, London

An all-Howard Blake programme including 'Diversons for cello & orchestra' played by Stephen Isserlis conducted by the composer (first London performance)

18th March 1989 Richard Reaville (ten), Chester Bach Singers & orchestra cond. Martin Bussey, speaker the Dean of Chester, Chester Cathedral, Cheshire
1st March 1989 Sir David Willcocks, Abingdon choir & orchestra, Abingdon, Pennsylvania, USA
17th July 1988 Robert Tear, The Bach Choir, RPO led by Barry Griffiths, Sir David Willcocks, speaker Rev. John Drury, King's College Chapel, Cambridge, Cambs
11th July 1988 Maldwyn Davies (ten), Sir David Willcocks, John Chambers (viola), Bach Choir, Philharmonia, Cardinal Basil Hume (Archbishop of Westminster), choristers of Westminster cathedral (James O'Donnell choirmaster), Westminster Cathedral

On the Feast of St Benedict

17th May 1988 Edmund Barham, Domkirkens Mottetkor, Kristiansand Symfoniorkester, Bjarne Slogedahl, Internationale Kirkefestspill, Kristiansand, Norway
December 1987 Sir David Willcocks, choir and orchestra, Christchurch Cathedral, New Zealand
27th August 1987 Arthur Davies, The Festival Chorus and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, conductor Dr Donald Hunt, Three Choirs Festival, Worcester Cathedral, Worcs.
22nd June 1987 Maldwyn Davies, Llandaff Cathedral Choral Society and Orchestra, conductor Dr. Michael Smith, Llandaff Cathedral, Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales
24th May 1987 Robert Tear, Scottish Philharmonic Singers (choir master Ian McCrorie), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, solo viola Carolyn Sparey Gillies, Sir David Willcocks, speaker Ian Aldred, St John's Kirk, Perth, Scotland as part of the Perth Festival of the Arts

Broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 9 August 1987

16th May 1987 Martyn Hill, The Cathedral Choristers, Cantata Choir, Manchester Camerata, conductor Stuart Beer, speaker The Dean of Manchester, Manchester Cathedral, Manchester
25th January 1986 Robert Tear, St Albans Bach Choir (chorus masters Colin Walsh and Andrew Parnell) and Cathedral Choir, The English Chamber Orchestra, Sir David Willcocks (conductor), Frederick Riddle (solo viola), The Dean of St Alban's (speaker), St Alban's Cathedral & Abbey Church, Herts

World premiere of the final revision of the work

1st May 1985 Student choir and orchestra, Downside Abbey, Devizes, Wiltshire
22nd August 1984 Guy Woolfenden (cond) Oxford Music Camp singers and orchestra, Pigotts Farm Summer Music Camp near High Wycombe,Bucks
30th October 1983 Gregory Massingham, University Choir & Orchestra, St Cecilia Chorale, conductor Howard Blake, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

The composer visited Queensland University during September-October 1983 at the instigation of Michael Leighton-Jones, then professor of vocal studies, which gave the composer the opportunity to undertake major revision of both content and orchestration of the work

27th November 1982 Alistair Thompson, Reigate & Redhill Choral Society and orchestra, conductor Jonathan Butcher, St Matthew's Church Redhill, Surrey
22nd May 1980 Richard Lewis (tenor), National Philharmonic Orchestra (leader Sidney Sax), solo viola Frederick Riddle, Ditchling Choral Society, conductor Janet Cannetty-Clarke, speaker Christopher Geer, Worth Abbey, Sussex

The work was commissioned by the Ditchling Choral Society with assistance from The Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust, at the suggestion of the Right Reverend Victor Farwell, Abbot of the Benedictine monastery of Worth, as part of the Abbey's celebrations for the 1,500th anniversary of the birth of Saint Benedict of Nursia (480 - 543 AD)

Reviews


"Eine Frau ohne Namen" - ein Ballett von Robert North mit Musik von Howard Blake.

Das Leben einer Frau von ihrer Geburt bis zum Tod ist Thema eines neuen Ballettabends von Robert North. Im Theater Mönchengladbach wurde die Uraufführung dieses Werkes vom Publikum begeistert gefeiert. Dass der Abend zutiefst berührt ist neben der eindrucksvollen Choreografie vor allem der Musik zu verdanken. In enger Zusammenarbeit mit dem Ballettdirektor hat der britische Komponist Howard Blake verschiedene Teile aus seinen Werken zu einem faszinierenden Klangteppich zusammengefügt. Neben großem Orchester mit ausgedehnten Streichersoli kommt im letzten Teil auch ein Chor zum Einsatz.

Der Abend beginnt musikalisch mit einem Sopransolo (Sophie Witte), das sich von zarten Tönen zu ausdrucksvollem Gesang steigert. Die Sängerin steht am linken Bühnenrand und begleitet gemeinsam mit den Streichern der Niederrheinischen Sinfoniker den Prolog. Vor einem roten Hintergrund, auf dem als Sinnbild des Lebens eine Kreisform zu erkennen ist, erwachen die Tänzer zum Leben. Sieben Männer und Frauen, in schlichte graue Trikots gekleidet, tanzen gemeinsam, dann in Gruppen getrennt und schließlich wieder zusammen. In einer für North charakteristischen klaren Ausdrucksform, in der sich stets klassische und moderne Elemente des Tanzes mischen, wird vom Ursprung des Lebens erzählt. Männliche und weibliche Gene ziehen sich an, vereinigen sich, Leben entsteht.

Wo Leben ist, ist auch der Tod. Farbe und Licht wechseln in tiefes Blau und in einer kurzen Sequenz wird der Tod einer männlichen Figur betrauert. Am Ende des Prologs erscheint ein kleines Mädchen aus einem Tunnel heraus, den die Tänzer gebildet haben. Mit seinen Eltern läuft es im Kreis, ein größeres Mädchen wir eingewechselt, schließlich richtet sich eine in Rot gekleidete Frau (Karine Andrei-Sutter) im Zentrum der Bühne auf. Sie ist von einem schwebenden Metallkreis umgeben, der im Verlauf des Stücks noch eine wichtige Rolle spielen wird. Das Leben der Frau beginnt. Sie ist als allgemeines Sinnbild zu verstehen und bleibt daher namenlos. Auch bei den weiteren Figuren wird auf individuelle Namen verzichtet.

Da sind zwei Freunde (Takashi Kondo und Guiseppe Lazarra), die sie durchs Leben begleiten, eine Freundin (Elisa Rossignoli) taucht auf, die später zur erbitterten Rivalin wird. Vertrauensvoll und von einer zurückhaltenden Zuneigung ist die Beziehung zu dem Jugendfreund (Raphael Peter) gekennzeichnet, heftige Leidenschaft charakterisiert die Begegnung mit dem ersten Ehemann (Alessandro Borghesani). Kinder werden geboren und bald verlässt er sie wegen der Freundin. Eine banale alltägliche Geschichte, die allerdings sehr dicht und emotional erzählt wird. Das Bühnenbild bleibt bis auf wenige Farb-und Lichtwechsel abstrakt, die Kostüme sind der heutigen Zeit angepasst (Ausstattung Udo Hesse).

Zwei Sätze aus Howard Blakes Violinkonzert bieten den perfekten musikalischen Rahmen dazu. Unter der Leitung ihres Kapellmeisters Alexander Steinitz spielen die Niederrheinischen Sinfoniker hoch konzentriert und engagiert. Im hoch emotionalen Violinsolo (Philipp Wenger) spiegeln sich die Qualen der verlassenen Frau wider. Innerhalb des Metallkreises agiert sie wie eine Gefangene, die keinen Ausweg findet. Nicht nur in dieser Szene beeindruckt Karine Andrei-Sutter mit ihrer feinnervigen und zugleich so intensiven Körpersprache. Die langjährige Solistin des Ballettensembles feiert mit dieser Rolle, in der sie alle Facetten zeigen kann, einen glanzvollen Abschied von der Bühne. Aus der Krise führt der Weg zur Kunst. Gegen Ende des ersten Teils wird die Frau eine gefeierte Schriftstellerin, der Jugendfreund zum zweiten Ehemann. Der erste Mann und die Freundin tauchen als schmerzhafte Erinnerungen immer wieder auf. Der zweite Teil zeigt die Frau bereits am Ende ihres Lebens.

Der Dynamik des Lebens folgt eine eher elegische und versöhnliche Stimmung. Jetzt mit grauem Haar bekräftigt das Ehepaar im Tanz noch einmal seine Zuneigung, gibt es auch die Aussöhnung mit der Freundin. Der Tod erfolgt plötzlich am Schreibtisch, was den Abend aber noch nicht beendet. Denn in einem an den Prolog anknüpfenden Schlussteil wird der Übergang vom physischen Tod in ein anderes Leben thematisiert. Robert North’ Überlegungen sind hier eindeutig vom christlichen Abendland geprägt. Nach einem Zwischenzustand in Leere und Dunkelheit begleitet ein Engel (Viktoria Hays) die Frau in eine andere Sphäre. Die reduzierte Architektur eines Gewölbes mit Empore sowie die in Pastelltönen gehaltenen, schlichten Kostüme lassen an Renaissancebilder denken. Darauf abgestimmt ist auch die Musik, die mit einem wunderbaren Viola-Solo (Albert Hametoff) beginnt und dann Teile aus Blakes Oratorium „Benedictus“ verwendet. Der lateinische Gesang des gemischten Chores (Einstudierung Maria Benyumova) verbreitet eine feierlich-sakrale Atmosphäre, zu der die wieder sehr dynamische Choreografie einen spannenden Kontrast bietet. Mit Drehungen und Sprüngen und in unterschiedlichen Konstellationen scharen sich achtzehn Tänzerinnen und Tänzer als Himmelswesen um die jetzt weiß gekleidete Frau, die schließlich Teil von ihnen wird.

Die einfache Geschichte bekommt so einen überzeitlichen Charakter, Musik und Tanz verschmelzen zu einen eindrucksvollen Gesamtkunstwerk. Dass das alles nicht in Kitsch abdriftet sondern sehr berührt, ist der Kunst von Robert North zu verdanken. Er versteht es, mit Tanz Geschichten zu erzählen, prägnant und voller Poesie

Stück Das Ballett „Die Frau ohne Namen“ mit Musik von Howard Blake wird das nächste Mal am Donnerstag, 19.Mai, um 19.30Uhr am Theater Mönchengladbach an der Odenkirchener Straße 78 gezeigt.
Musikalische Leitung Alexander Steinitz
Choreografie Robert North
Choreografieassistenz Sheri Cook
Bühne und Kostüme Udo Hesse
Dramaturgie Regina Härtling
 

Michaela Plattenteich, West Rheinischer Zeitung, 16/5/2016


Conductor and choir directorJonathan Butcher took the initiative in giving the second performance of Howard Blake’s Benedictus which re-kindled new interest in the work, resulting in it establishing itself as one of the twentieth century’s major oratorios.

Jonathan Butcher, Conductor and choral director Jonathan Butcher's website, 2015


First performances and works by twentieth century composers include Peter Maxwell-Davies – Violin Concerto, Roger Steptoe – ‘Cello Concerto with Alexander Baillie, Alan Ridout – Flute and Harp Concerto (World Premiere), Malcolm Williamson – Concerto Grosso. Jonathan took the initiative in giving the second performance of Howard Blake’s Benedictus, which re-kindled new interest in the work, resulting in it establishing itself as one of the twentieth century’s major oratorios. He also conducted the first performance of Wilfred Joseph’s Overture – ‘High Spirits.’ He gave the second performance of Barry Russell’s ‘Town and Country,’ which was first performed at the 2002 Promenade concerts and he premiered a new song cycle by Marcus Barcham Stevens ‘Lost to the Beloved.’ Jonathan also gave the first public performance of the newly discovered ‘Air on a theme of Purcell’ by Gordon Jacob.

Jonathan Butcher, Havant Orchestra, 2013


The rest of the concert was given over to Howard Blake’s Benedictus. This is a large-scale work for chorus, chamber choir, tenor soloist and narrator, as well as viola soloist to open and close the work.

The opening solo viola prelude (representing the novice monk), played with great skill and passion by Rosalind Ventris, was beautiful. The words of St Benedict were given by the narrator, before the first chorus entry starting with plainsonginspired settings before opening out into the rich palette of Blake’s more usual orchestration, which is very much in the English tradition of Vaughn Williams, Howells and Walton.

A lush and beautiful sound washing around the cathedral, with the hallmark glockenspiel ringing out on the top of the orchestral textures.

There was fantastic singing from the Chamber Choir and jewel-like sparse moments of harp and winds gently accompanying.

William Kendall (tenor) seemed to be having some problems and could have done with more power in the richer orchestrated sections. The balance and feel was better in the section for tenor and chamber choir only.

The last tenor and chorus number had a dramatic ending before we were regaled with the last ‘sermon’ and the closing chorus.

Finally, Rosalind Ventris gave the postlude on viola – this time standing on the soloists’ podium, and, as in her previous sections, the playing was fabulous.

Howard Blake was in the audience and took a deserved bow, but somehow the work seemed too disparate overall.

Perhaps with a passionate actor speaking Benedict’s words and a bravura tenor, the whole thing could work and hang together more coherently. But a brave attempt at a modern oratorio from SMS.

Sarah Collins, Salisbury Journal, 31/12/2012


A work inspired by St Benedict’s Rule

by Roderic Dunnett

TOP MARKS to the St Albans Bach Choir for programming the Benedictus by Howard Blake as part of a recent concert: quality revivals of recent but not regularly performed works are as valuable to a composer as the première itself.

Blake’s opus numbers now exceed those of Mozart, and he has a wide following, thanks to his enchanting music for The Snowman and for some other memorable film scores, notably for the Colin Firth and Kenneth Branagh film A Month in the Country. Based on a finely wrought, visceral story by the canny E. H. Carr, it focused on the restoration of a terrifying complete medieval Doom painting (not unlike that recently discovered in Holy Trinity, Coventry). The film was equally unforgettable for the twin cameos of Patrick Malahide as the impossible, violin-strumming incumbent the Revd Mr Keach, and the benign Jim Carter, who played the fire-breathing Methodist minister-cum-stationmaster. Blake, a composer of substance and of agreeably traditionalist leanings, has composed several large choral works that other choirs might consider for the future. The Passion of Mary, his op. 577, a reworking of his earlier Stabat Mater, calls on an additional boys’ choir, as well as a large complement of soloists. Songs of Truth and Glory was written for Donald Hunt and the Elgar Chorale, and first heard at the 2005 Three Choirs Festival. A Charter of Peace was written for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. In addition, Blake’s Christchurch Mass is for choir and organ, and he has set the Jubilate, and provided music for the Series 3 communion service. Together with this goes Blake’s skill as a synthesiser — he is not afraid to be eclectic, but he assimilates his sources confidently — and as an initiator. The shape and concept of his Benedictus is bold, and almost palindromic. Blake sets not the canticle and Psalm bearing that name, but passages from the Rule of St Benedict, which are used to preface, conclude, and intersperse a series of other Psalm settings. Psalmfest might have been an apt title (compare Leonard Bernstein); or else Symphony of Psalms, à la Stravinsky. At the centre of the work, Howard Blake sets a poem from which he clearly derives strong inspiration: 70-80 lines of Francis Thompson’s harrowing, visionary work The Hound of Hell — coincidentally reminiscent of that other, visionary Blake. Three other ingredients play a part: spoken prefaces, delivered here by the Dean, the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John; a section in which the tenor soloist (Martyn Hill) speaks certain lines; and a striking initial instrumental passage for solo viola, later yielding to bells and organ, and here performed, to searing effect, by Fiona Bonds at the west end, the crossing, and the east end of the Abbey. By turns serene, knotty, and contrapuntally challenging, this viola sequence, as besotting as Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending, has a similar intensity to the Thompson setting. Both are remarkable pieces of writing. The St Albans Bach Choir’s performance, splendidly controlled under the unflappable Andrew Lucas — crisp, undemonstrative, and capably businesslike, who graded Blake’s tempi to ideal effect — contained much to admire. From the start, the penitential character of this work, beautifully and sensitively articulated, and as piercing as similar passages in A Child of our Time, was to the fore, just as strikingly as in its Hispanic and Italianate grieving forerunners of the 16th and 17th centuries. The initial tenor outburst was superb, with some searing, angst-ridden woodwind for the unrelenting Psalm 38 (“so spent, so crushed, so beaten and bowed”). Later, Blake allows his soloist to intone, and the effect is shatteringly intense. With sensitive accompaniment — not least from some superlative woodwind — Martyn Hill’s articulation of the central section highlighted the full power of the poetry: the intensity of a pianissimo beginning: “I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears I hid from Him”, or the impassioned, pained desolation of “Yet was I sore adread Lest having Him, I must have naught beside.” Only in the second chorus from St Benedict, taken from the Prologue, did Blake seem to lower his guard and produce a movement perilously close to a triter kind of music. The power and invention of much of the rest ensured an enlightening and inspiring evening in the Abbey, whose stones still bear the stamp of Roman Verulamium.

Roderic Dunnett, CHURCH TIMES, 1/2008


A score written from the heart, effective and fresh.

Christopher Grier, Evening Standard, 5/6/1989


The Benedictine Order has today spread far from its sixth-century origin on Monte Cassino; and among its present monasteries is that of Worth Abbey in Sussex. Living nearby in the 1970s Howard Blake wrote some music for the Abbey, and became fascinated by the contribution of the Abbey's acoustics to that music. Now comes further music of larger scope, using St Benedict, the Psalms, Francis Thompson and the composer's own words for collective text. And the resulting music turns out to be ideally suited to its purpose: those parents whose children's affection for The Snowman has persuaded them to swear that Blake's music must for sanity's sake never darken their doors again should consider recantation!
If they do they will find greatly different music; though equally skilled, equally suitable for its particular subject. That is, in the present case, moving, devotional, beautiful. The music is also expounded beautifully by the performers concerned: solo tenor, solo viola, chorus, and orchestra. Further, it is very well recorded.
Is the record in line, then, for the warmest possible of recommendations, for the final accolade? No, it is not, for one reason only: the type in the accompanying booklet is so absurdly small that it is well nigh impossible to read.'

Gramaphone, 1989


Drawing inspiration from the great traditions of the past, Benedictus belongs unmistakeably to the living tradition of inspirational choral music ...

The Catholic Herald, 9/12/1988


Benedictus ... flows directly out of the English choral style as much as it enjoys the influences of the mainstream turn-of-the-century European composers ... impassioned and sincere.

Kenneth Walton, Daily Telegraph, 5/1987


Saturday 15th September 2012 Originally printed in the
20th March 1987
issue of the Catholic Herald Keywords: David Willcocks, The Bach Choir, Howard Blake, Worcester Cathedral, Three Choirs Festival, Willcocks, Entertainment / Culture Topics: Entertainment / Culture Organisations: People: Robert Tear, David Willcocks, Howard Blake, Encore Encore! more performances of Howard Blake's oratorio

FOLLOWING the successful performance of Howard Blake's dramatic oratorio "Benedictus" in St Albans Cathedral in January, five further major performances are now scheduled: Manchester Cathedral May 16 1987; Perth Festival May 24 1987 (First Broadcast Peformance, with Sir David Willcocks and Robert Tear); Llandaff Cathedral June 1987; Three Choirs Festival at Worcester Cathedral August 27 1987 and Westminster Cathedral July 11 1988 (First London Performance with Sir David Willcocks, when the Cathedral celebrates the Feast of St Benedict The Bach Choir and Maldwyn Davies).

The vocal score is available from Faber Music.


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Catholic Herald, 20/3/1987


Thompson's words [inspire] some of the most turbulent and personal music in the work. Great opportunities for the tenor as the long aria works up ... to a jubilant coda for chorus of exactly the right length and weight. A serious and impressive work.

Hugo Cole, The Guardian, 4/1/1986


Benedictus is a major work to date by a musician of wide experience ... Eschewing avant-garde methods, Howard Blake relies here upon enhanced diatonicism and devotes his impressive skills to sensitive word-setting and assured pacing of the linked sections in the development of a satisfying large-scale structure in three parts. A prelude, interlude and epilogue for unaccompanied solo viola evoke the aloneness of the central character, a Novice called to the monstic life, a masterly imaginative stroke. The scoring for choir and orchestra is unfailingly effective. The music ranges through moods of despair and anguish to a final affirmation. Its moods encompass sweetness, yet avoid sentimentality, and there is plenty of lively choral music spiced with syncopated rhythms. Benedictus deserves its considerable success with choral societies and audiences. Repetition increases respect for its solid virtues and sincerity.

Music and Musicians International, 1986

Related Works


'PRELUDE FOR SOLO VIOLA' op.402 (1989)
The Prelude from "Benedictus" as a concert piece.

Related Autobiography Chapters


Heredity (1938)
Grade 8 with distinction (1954)
'All the Way Up', the BBC and a radical change (1970)
Ridley Scott's film 'The Duellists' and Robert North's ballet 'The Annunciation' (1977)
'Agatha', 'The Changeling' and 'S.O.S.Titanic' in Hollywood (1979)
'Granpa', 'A Month in the Country' and 'The Canterville Ghost' (1986)
Astra goes into orbit with 'The Conquest of Space' (1988)
Sir Neville Marriner and The Academy of St. Martin record the woodwind concertos (2012)

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