Recordings

Details of published CD, DVD, Video and LP recordings of the works of Howard Blake.

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A full list of all of Howard's works which have been recorded (though not necessarily published or made available for sale) can be found here.

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Benedictus (CD)

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
Categories: [Chorus & Orchestra]
Available from:
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Sony Classical
Released by: Sony Music Classical

"Benedictus" is a dramatic oratorio for solo tenor, chorus and orchestra with optional speaker, recorded in 1988 and re-released in 2012

The recording features the legendary tenor soloist Robert Tear, The Bach Choir, the boy choristers of St. Paul's Cathedral, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and their principle viola Andrew Williams. The performance is memorably conducted by Sir David Willcocks and produced by the composer.

Since its premiere "Benedictus" has been performed widely and due to its continued currency the CD has been reissued in 2012 by Highbridge Music. It can justly be called the definitive recording and received glowing reviews on its initial release in 1988.

Inspired by the teachings of St. Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine Order, it is itself an inspirational work.

The tenor soloist portrays a novice who seeks admission to a monastic order and his spiritual journey becomes a metaphor for everyman's search for truth and spiritual fulfilment.

This theme may invite comparison with "The Dream of Gerontius", but while "Benedictus" has the same devotional intensity as Elgar's masterpiece, it also has the vivid and dramatic style of choral writing associated with Walton's "Belshazzar's Feast" or Orff's "Carmina Burana".

The work falls into three parts. In part one the novice's despair is countered by affirmations of faith voiced by the chorus. In part two the chorus declares the disciplines required to enter monastic life; the novice then examines his innermost soul in words from Francis Thompson's poem "The Hound of Heaven". A briefly-glimpsed vision of spiritual ecstasy leads to part three, the ritual of admission to the order and a joyous psalm of blessing.

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 monastic 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.


Related Opuses


Tracks

  • 1) Prelude - Solo Viola
  • 2) Chorus - Ausculta o filii
  • 3) Tenor Solo and Chorus - Thy Rebuke Lord
  • 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 me
  • 10) Tenor Solo and Chorus - Suscipe me
  • 11) Chorus - Bless the Lord O my Soul
  • 12) Chorus - Processu Conversationis
  • 13) Postlude - Solo Viola

Reviews

by Jonathan Butcher in Havant Orchestra 2013

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.


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