ARCHANGELS' LULLABY op.436A (December 1991)

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(an arrangment for cello and piano)
Published by: Highbridge Music Ltd
Duration: 3:30
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Recordings Available
Archangel's Lullaby
Recorded: 2006
Artists: An album of Children's cello: Steven Isserlis (cello), Stephen Hough (cello), Simon Callow (narrator)

DIVERSIONS - Works by Howard Blake for cello and piano
Released: 1st March 2015
Recorded: 2014
Artists: Howard Blake (Piano), Benedict Kloeckner (Cello)
Available from: amazon GENUIN

CHILDREN'S CELLO. Recording of  'Archangel's Lullaby' by Steven Isserlis (cello) and Stephen Hough (piano) on CD 'Children's Cello' track 26. c & p 2006 BIS-CD-1562 

Movements

  • 1: Archangel's Lullaby
  • 2: Even Steven
  • 3: Roly Poly

Notes

Originally composed for 3 cellos 'Archangel's Lullaby' was composed as a congratulation present sent to Steven and Pauline Isserlis on the birth of their son Gabriel. The solo part (cello I) was intended for a young cellist and at the first performance was played delightfully by Simon Wallfisch, then aged 7. 

Performances

24th April 2015 Benedict Kloeckner, cello and Hoeward Blake, piano, Genuin records/SWR

[DIVERSIONS (cello and piano)] [ARCHANGELS' LULLABY (for cello and piano)] [PENNILLION (for Cello and Piano)] [CELLO SONATA] [WALKING IN THE AIR FOR CELLO & PIANO] [THE ENCHANTMENT OF VENUS FOR CELLO AND PIANO]

by Greg Applegate in Gapplegate 24/4/2015

Howard Blake, Diversions, Benedict Kloeckner

An English composer with a pronounced lyrical gift, Howard Blake (b. 1938) is perhaps best known for his soundtrack to the feature cartoon, "The Snowman," which has a hauntingly beautiful refrain "Walking in the Air" for boy soprano and orchestra. He has a body of more "serious" works though, and we can hear some of how that sounds on a new recording featuring works for cello and piano, Diversions (SWR2/Genuin 15346). Benedict Kloeckner takes on the cello role for these works and sounds terrific. Howard Blake himself handles the piano part with dramatic credibility.

These are modern lyric pieces that show us Blake the gritty but mellifluous contemporary composer in a series of six compositions, all but one enjoying world premier recordings in the versions presented. This is music of a pronounced tonality but without anything in the way of a neo-classical glance at the past. He may certainly have something of the romantic in him, but like Samuel Barber it is so individual that you don't find yourself saying, "yes, that is Brahmsian...that is Mendelssohnian, etc." The works hold their own as contemporary music with a pronounced Blakean signature affixed. There is nothing banally "new age" sounding to them either. The music is filled with inventive flourishes that evince a fertile creative mind at work.

The piano parts occasionally step into the spotlight but mostly this is music that gives the cellist a chance to take a singing melodic lead. Kloeckner responds with an extraordinarily vibrant tone and rhapsodic lucidity.

There is nothing in the way of filler. Each work has something to say. We get a touching rendition of "Walking in the Air" that reminds us how well-constructed the deceptively straightforward song is. But then we get more complexly lyrical works in the title work "Diversions for Cello & Piano," in "Pennillion for Cello & Piano," the "Cello Sonata," and "The Enchantment of Venus." The program concludes with a short and very lovely "Archangel's Lullaby" and we are done.

This is music any classical Anglophile will appreciate. It has an accessibility that will appeal to a large audience, potentially. And it is rousingly good music. It is not high modernist but it is thoroughly contemporary. It has a special quality to it that belongs very much to the musical personality of Howard Blake.

Very much recommended.

25th March 2015 Benedict Kloeckner cello, Sasha Grynyuk piano, Bob Boas concert room, 22 Mansfield Street, W1, 7.30

A concert to celebrate the release of 'Diversions' an album of Howard Blake's music for cello and piano - Benedict Kloeckner cello and the composer as pianist  - Genuin label, recorded by SWDR Germany

Howard is unable to play having unfortuately sufferred a broken wrist. He will however be present to act as mediator.

27th January 2014 Benedict Kloeckner (cello) Howard Blake (piano), SWDR recording studios, Kaiserslautern, Germany (South West German Radio)

Recordings of Howard Blake's works for cello and piano commenced at the studios of SWDR in Kaiserslautern with 'Tonmeister' Ralf Kolbinger July 12-14 2013. The composer was interviewed on the 12th by producer Sabine Fallenstein for the radio station and an album scheduled for release on the record label GENUIN. The decision to record followed up Benedict's triumph with Howard's 'Diversions' in the version for cello and piano in 2010 which won him the EBU youth musician prize and thereafter gave rise to succesful performances with various pianists including the composer himself. Howard was invited by Benedict in 2011 to join him in a complete recital of his works in the delightful venue of the Schlangenbad Historisches Konzerthaus outside Mainz. This proved to be an astonishing success, with a capacity audience who demanded endless encores and gave repeated stand-up ovations. The repertoire for this recording largely mirrored that of the concert. Recording was finally completed on January 28th 2014 and included the addition of the work 'The Enchantment of Venus' for cello and piano.

19th October 2013 Benedict Kloeckner cello and Danae Dorken piano, Gasteig Munich

The recital included Howard Blake's 'Diversions' for cello and piano and the first performance of 'Prelude for Benedict' for solo cello, in an arrangement created specially for the occasion by the composer who was in attendance. The concert was a resounding success and, echoing the orchestral concerts with the Berlin Chamber Orchestra earlier in the year 'Archangel's Lullaby' was done as one of the encores. The event was recorded by Bavarian Radio.

5th October 2013 Kloeckner/Blake, Steinway House Dusseldorf

A concert of Howard's music for cello and piano with EBU prizewinner Benedict Kloeckner including the premiere of 'THE ENCHANTMENT OF VENUS' for cello and piano

28th April 2013 Benedict Kloeckner (solo cello), Jordi Bernacer (conductor), Berlin Kammerorchester, Konzerthaus Berlin 20.00

The Konzerthaus programme began with Igor Stravinsky's Concerto in D for strings and continued with Haydn's cello concerto, also in D. After the interval the first performance of 'Diversions for solo cello and string orchestra' was played by Benedict Kloeckner and conducted by Jordi Bernacer. The audience gave it a boisterous and lengthy ovation which culminated in an encore for which the two cellists in the orchestra joined Benedict in Howard's 3-cello piece 'Archangel's Lullaby'. The programme ended with a fine reading of Haydn's 'Farewell' symphony.

Howard Blake originally wrote 'Diversions' as a work for cello and piano in 1973, but in 1984 he was introduced to the great cellist Maurice Gendron who persuaded him to revise it into a concerto for cello and orchestra. Howard worked with him, first in his home in Grez-sur-Loing and later at the Ravel Festival in St. Jean de Luz, adding a new cadenza and finale. He completed the full orchestration in February 1985. Gendron had hoped to premiere it for the BBC at the Brighton Festival but was unable to do so due to ill-health from which he eventually died. In 1989 a premiere of the work was given by Steven Isserlis and the Royal Philharmonic conducted by Sir Charles Groves. In 1991 the work was recorded by Robert Cohen for Sony with the composer conducting The Philharmonia. The Strad commented: 'The dearth of repertoire for the solo cello should encourage more composers to write for the instrument. 'Diversions' is a welcome newcomer which could become an old friend. The eight movements all have an individual character, made more convincing by economic scoring in which each theme or effect is clearly defined. It is a bright, colourful, tuneful piece with tremendous rhythmic drive.' The form is a suite in eight sections: Prelude, Scherzo, March, Waltz, Aria, Serenade, Sarabande and Cadenza, Finale. In 2010 cellist and mentor Martin Rummel introduced the piano/cello version of the piece to Benedict Kloeckner as an interesting work with which to enter the EBU Young Musicians Prize. Generally players choose two or three contrasted works for such a competition, but since 'Diversions' contained such contrast within the eight movements he decided to perform the entire work and won first prize. Since then he has played it frequently with various pianists, including Howard Blake himself with whom he played it at the International Cello Festival in Kronberg. In July 2013 they are scheduled to record it for SWDR. Just over two years ago the composer heard Benedict and the Berlin Kammerorchester give a superb performance of the Schumann concerto in a new strings-only arrangement and it was this performance that inspired him to rework 'Diversions' for similar forces.

Reviews


Review of 'Diversions' - an album of music by Howard Blake for cello and piano played by Benedict Kloeckner and the composer,  released 2015 by Genuin.

'I'd also recommend an overlooked 2015 disc from the Austrian Genuin label where Benedict Kloeckner plays the cello music of Howard Blake, with the composer himself accompaying - unfialingly attractve and often tremendous fun for both performers and lsiteners.'

PETER QUANTRILL, THE STRAD, 2/2018


DIVERSIONS

Diversions Interpreters: Benedict Kloeckner (Violoncello), Howard Blake (Piano) Label: Genuin GEN 15346 Type: CD Published in: Das Orchester November 2015, page 85 On this CD ‘Diversions’ the composer Howard Blake (1938) joins up with Benedict Kloeckner (1989) the rising star of the cello world to present a programme of his own compositions. When Kloeckner won the New Talent Competition of the European Broadcasting Union in 2010 with Blake’s suite ‘Diversions’, the composer presented him with the Cello Sonata and the opportunity of being first to perform it. This led to the two musicians joining up in a close working relationship which has produced a wonderful-sounding album in which the rhythmic finesse of film music and elements of jazz combine to delight the ear. The British pianist, conductor and composer Howard Blake has written soundtracks for famous films as well as numerous concert works and is thus able to exhibit an extensive and multi-faceted oeuvre. One of his most famous pieces is the song ‘Walking in the Air’ from the film ‘The Snowman’, which is to be heard on this CD. Another famous credit is his soundtrack for the science-fiction film ‘Flash Gordon’ on which he worked together with the British rock band ‘Queen’. Throughout the album one can hear that Howard Blake is at home in the film metier in his compositions. They are colourfully laid out and tell stories. Striking melodies, rhythmic complexity, virtuosically-constructed passages and strongly-expressive harmonies determine their character. Some of the pieces heard on the CD were originally written for other combinations and therefore it is as transcriptions that they should be credited as world first performances. The work providing the album-title, ‘Diversions’, is an eight-movement suite which plays with contrasts. It takes historical forms such as the Prelude or the Sarabande, but dresses them up them in contemporary clothes, using jazzy and rhythmically-pointed musical elements. During the variation-work ‘Pennillion’ its longing, cantabile melody is allowed to shine in ever-changing new lights, the Cello Sonata is most unusual in its voicings. At last we come to the programme-piec ‘The Enchantment of Venus’, for whose story Blake is served by Greek myth. The farewell exhibits two short melodic pieces, ‘Walking in the Air’ and ‘Archangel’s Lullaby’ that was originally written for three cellos. Howard Blake and Benedict Kloeckner convince on this high-quality album by their clearly-heard joy in the music. The outstanding quality and the beauty of sound is maintained throughout the works and their very different characters. Blake’s compositions with their catchy melodies must surely appeal not only to film-music buffs but to anyone who opens their ears! Anna Catharina Nimczik

Arranged by DAS ORCHESTER NOVEMBER 2015

Anna Catharina Nimczik, Das Orchester, 11/2015


Howard Blake, Diversions, Benedict Kloeckner

An English composer with a pronounced lyrical gift, Howard Blake (b. 1938) is perhaps best known for his soundtrack to the feature cartoon, "The Snowman," which has a hauntingly beautiful refrain "Walking in the Air" for boy soprano and orchestra. He has a body of more "serious" works though, and we can hear some of how that sounds on a new recording featuring works for cello and piano, Diversions (SWR2/Genuin 15346). Benedict Kloeckner takes on the cello role for these works and sounds terrific. Howard Blake himself handles the piano part with dramatic credibility.

These are modern lyric pieces that show us Blake the gritty but mellifluous contemporary composer in a series of six compositions, all but one enjoying world premier recordings in the versions presented. This is music of a pronounced tonality but without anything in the way of a neo-classical glance at the past. He may certainly have something of the romantic in him, but like Samuel Barber it is so individual that you don't find yourself saying, "yes, that is Brahmsian...that is Mendelssohnian, etc." The works hold their own as contemporary music with a pronounced Blakean signature affixed. There is nothing banally "new age" sounding to them either. The music is filled with inventive flourishes that evince a fertile creative mind at work.

The piano parts occasionally step into the spotlight but mostly this is music that gives the cellist a chance to take a singing melodic lead. Kloeckner responds with an extraordinarily vibrant tone and rhapsodic lucidity.

There is nothing in the way of filler. Each work has something to say. We get a touching rendition of "Walking in the Air" that reminds us how well-constructed the deceptively straightforward song is. But then we get more complexly lyrical works in the title work "Diversions for Cello & Piano," in "Pennillion for Cello & Piano," the "Cello Sonata," and "The Enchantment of Venus." The program concludes with a short and very lovely "Archangel's Lullaby" and we are done.

This is music any classical Anglophile will appreciate. It has an accessibility that will appeal to a large audience, potentially. And it is rousingly good music. It is not high modernist but it is thoroughly contemporary. It has a special quality to it that belongs very much to the musical personality of Howard Blake.

Very much recommended.

Greg Applegate, Gapplegate, 24/4/2015


...has a Faure-like sensibility that must please the cellist (an admitted Faure fanatic) no end.

Gramophone, 1/7/2006

Related Works


'ARCHANGEL'S LULLABY' op.436 (November 1991)
A piece for three cellos
''ARCHANGEL'S LULLABY' FOR VIOLA AND PIANO' op.568 (March 2006)
A piece for children

Related Autobiography Chapters


Vladimir Ashkenazy records the piano music for Decca (2013)

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