CELLO SONATA op.619 (September 2010)

a transcription of the violin sonata
Published by: Highbridge Music Ltd
Commissioned by: Benedict Kloeckner
First Performance: tba
Recordings Available
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

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.

17th April 2015 Benedict Kloeckner cello, Howard Blake piano, Milton Court, (London Barbican)
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.

25th March 2014 Howard Blake music for cello and piano, Bob Boas concert room, London
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.

29th October 2013 Benedict Kloeckner and Howard Blake, The Music Room, 45 Queen's Gate Terrace, Kensington, London

A programme of Howard Blake's music on his 75th birthday

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

2nd October 2011 Benedict and Howard, Kronberg
8th May 2011 Howard Blake and Benedict Kloeckner, Historisches Cafe Concert Hall,Schlangenbad,Mainz, Germany

A complete concert of works for cello and piano, including 'Pennillion', 'Diversions' and 'Jazz Dances'

Reviews


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

Related Autobiography Chapters


Benedict Kloeckner wins European Broadcasting Award with 'Diversions' (2010)
'Speech after long silence' for the Hong Kong International Piano Competition (2011)
'The Land of Counterpane' - the making of an animated film song-cycle (2015)

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