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Programme-note by the composer:
‘Diversions’ was originally conceived as a suite for cello and piano as far back as 1973. In 1984 the great French cellist Maurice Gendron encouraged the composer to rework the piece for cello and symphony orchestra, and he himself edited the cello part. The first performance of the work in this orchestral form was given by Steven Isserlis and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Groves at The Fairfield Halls Croydon on 29th March 1989. Soon after this a transcription for cello and piano was made by the composer.
A new lease of life was given to the work in November 2010 when the brilliant young German cellist, Benedict Kloeckner, accompanied by Spanish pianist Jose Gallardo, won the penultimate round of the EBU Young Artists Competition in Bratislava, which led to Benedict also playing the Elgar Concerto and winning the entire contest. To celebrate the event Howard transcribed his violin sonata for cello and piano and in the following Spring assembled an entire recital of cello and piano music for Benedict, which the two of them performed in concert in the Historisches Cafehalle in Schlangenbad near Mainz on May 8th 2011. The recital consisted of Pennillion, Diversions, Jazz Dances, Cello Sonata, and included a new cello and piano transcription of Howard Blake's famous song 'Walking in the Air'.
Since 2010 Benedict Kloeckner has given many performances of the work with piano, both with the composer and other prominent pianists. Subsequently however the suggestion was made that a version for string orchestra could be a wonderful addition to the repertoire and such a transcription has now been made by the composer for this evening's premiere performance.
The work pays mischievous homage to instrumental suites of the past. The Scherzo is not quite a scherzo, the March more than a march. The Waltz has a wrong-stepping jazz tinge to it, the Aria a sudden profundity. The Serenade bursts into arrogant display, the guitar-like Sarabande becomes an eloquent cadenza. We are led back to the theme of the Prelude via a Finale of such bristling virtuosic energy that its simple melodic line assumes a far more complex character – having been well and truly ‘diverted’.
|6th October 2013||The first performance of 'The Duellists' (Symphony no. 3') was given by the Koenigswinter orchestra conducted by Tobias van de Locht in the Zehntschoene Kloster Heisterbach as part of the Bonn Beethoven Festival 2013. The concert began with Mozart's Symphony no. 39 and was followed by a performance of 'Diversions for cello and string orchestra' with Benedict Kloeckner as soloist. The concert which included encores received a stand-up ovation., Zehntscheune des Klosters Heisterbach:11.00-13.00
An event as part of Howard Blake's 75th birthday Dusseldorf
|29th June 2013
- 7th July 2013
|Benedict Kloeckner, Howard Blake, Boswil festival (near Zurich)
An impromptu performance of 'Clown on a tight-rope' on 28th June within a chamber music concert echoed the 'masquerade' theme of the festival and provoked spontaneous laughter and applause.
|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.
|27th April 2013||Benedict Kloeckner, Jorde Benacer, Berlin Kammerorchester, Theater an der Blinke, Leer, Germany
An end of season concert given by Verein Junger Kaufleute anticipating the Berlin event of the following day
Barbara Fischer Leer/Berlin, Ost-Friesen-Zeitung, 29/4/2013