*SERENADE FOR WIND OCTET op.419 (October 1990)

A concert work in 3 movements
Published by: Highbridge Music Ltd
Commissioned by: Janet Hilton on behalf of The Seaton Festival
Instrumentation: 2ob,2cl,2hn,2bn
[Key to Abbreviations]
Duration: 15 mins
First Performance: The Camerata Soloists, Seaton Music Club 13.12.1990
Sheet Music Available
Full score for sale
Instrumental parts for sale
Recordings Available
The Barber of Neville: Howard Blake-Wind Concertos-Sir Neville Marriner
Released: 1st October 2013
Recorded: September 2012
Artists: Jaime Martin (flute), Andrew Marriner (clarinet), Gustavo Nunez (bassoon), Orchestra of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields conducted by Sir Neville Marriner
Available from: Naxos Records Pentatone Amazon UK Amazon US

In 2018 a splendid performance was given in Madrid by the wind octet of Juan Battista Gonzalez and recorded on You Tube  https://youtu.be/ZNGseB-rrrQ


  • 1: Grazioso 6 minutes 30 seconds
  • 2: Serioso (come una marcia lente) 4 minutes 30 seconds
  • 3: Molto Vivace, Capriccioso 3 minutes 40 seconds


Composer's note: The clarinettist Janet Hilton requested I should write a woodwind octet and this work was expressly composed for her own group 'The Camerata Soloists'.

Number 19 of the collection 'Lifecycle' is a transcription of the second movement for piano.



16th July 2016
- 24th September 2016
St. John's Church, Bury St. Edmonds
16th July 2016
- 24th September 2016
Churchgate Wind Octet, Walsham Le Willows Church nr. Bury St. Edmonds 16th July 2016 and at St John's Church Bury St Edmonds on Sept 24th 2016
1st March 2015 Sir Neville Marriner,conductor,The Orchestra of the Academy of St.Martin in the Fields,soloists: Gustavo Nunez, Jaime Martin and Andrew Marriner. Wind Octet for soloists within the orchestra: David Theodore, Rachel Ingleton (oboes); Timothy Lines, Katie Lockhart (clarinets); Graham Sheen, Gavin McNaughton (bassoons); Stephen Stirling, Susan Dent (horns). Released on Pentatone Classics/Hybrid Multichannel PTC 5186 506 Super Audio CD Global distribution by Naxos, Recorded at St John's Smith Square, London

Dated Saturday 28th February 2015
Howard BLAKE (b. 1938) The Barber of Neville Concerto for flute and string orchestra, Op. 493a (1996) [17:57] Concerto for clarinet and chamber orchestra, Op. 329a (1984/2010) [21:31] Concerto for bassoon and string orchestra, Op. 607 (1971/2009) [12:35] Serenade for Wind Octet, Op. 419 (1990) Jaime Martin (flute); Andrew Marriner (clarinet); Gustavo Núñez (bassoon) Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/Sir Neville Marriner rec. September, 2012, St. John’s Smith Square, London. DDD PENTATONE CLASSICS PTC 5186 506 SACD [68:24] This disc is a delight from start to finish. The three wind concertos by Howard Blake all make for highly enjoyable listening while the Serenade for Wind Octet is equally attractive and no mere ‘filler’. The Concerto for bassoon and string orchestra is the only one of the works that I’ve previously heard. There’s a story behind this work. Some years ago Dr Len Mullenger proposed that MusicWeb International would commission the work for the young bassoonist, Karen Geoghegan, then at the start of her career, to perform and record. Unfortunately, due to circumstances outside the control of either Len or Howard Blake it wasn’t possible to bring that project to fruition but Blake wrote the concerto anyway and here it’s played by Gustavo Núñez, the principal bassoonist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. The concerto, which plays for some 12 minutes, is cast in three short movements and it exploits the various facets of the bassoon very effectively. The music is thoroughly attractive. The first movement is fluent and makes full use of the instrument’s compass. In the pensive little slow movement the bassoon’s singing qualities are brought out while the finale is perky and sprightly. Núñez is an excellent soloist. The Clarinet Concerto was written for Thea King who gave its first performance and recorded it. Sadly, however, she never returned to the work for reasons that are explained in the booklet. Blake made some revisions to the first movement and it’s that revised version that’s presented for the first time on disc in this recording. If you have Thea King’s Hyperion disc containing this concerto and works by Lutoslawski and Mátyás Seiber that will be her recording of the original version of the Blake concerto (CDA66215). The Clarinet Concerto strikes a slightly more serious tone than the other works on this disc. The first movement has a somewhat mysterious air to it. I particularly like the second movement, which follows without a break. Here the music is mellow and songful; it’s gently expressive and is expressively played There are ample opportunities for display in the lively finale. This concerto also benefits from the advocacy of an expert soloist in the person of Andrew Marriner. The Flute Concerto is simply captivating. The first movement is dominated by a lovely, airy melody which is sung by the flute right at the outset. As the movement unfolds and the string orchestra gets involved with the melody the flute decorations are most attractive. The second movement sparkles, living up fully to the fact that the term con Spirito is included in the tempo indication; there’s also a more relaxed central section, which is very pleasing. The slow movement consists of a beguiling theme which is then subject to variation, followed by a cadenza. The finale is, for the most part, vivacious and high spirited. Just before the close there’s a welcome reminiscence of the melody with which the concerto began. This concerto is zestful and delightfully fresh. Jaime Martin does it full justice. The wind Serenade is cast in three movements. The first is urbane and civilised and one notices at once how expertly the music has been laid out for the eight instruments. All parts contribute to the discussion and all the individual lines are clearly heard and well balanced: that latter point is a tribute to the players also. I can only agree with the composer’s comment that this movement contains ‘a profusion of melody and rhythm and a sense of life bubbling over.’ The second movement strikes a more serious tone but the finale is, in Blake’s words, ‘capricious, light and breathless.’ Infectiously gay rhythms impart a real spring to the music. All the music on this disc is splendidly performed both by the soloists and by The Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Incidentally, Sir Neville Marriner will celebrate his 90th birthday in April 2014 so the timing of the release of this new disc is highly appropriate. He would have been 88 at the time these recordings were made but I defy any listener to deduce that: the spirited performances could be the work of a man half his age. The recorded sound is excellent. My one very minor caveat is a suspicion that the clarinet was just a shade too close to the microphone; occasionally one detects a little bit of extraneous noise from the instrument but not to any disruptive degree. Otherwise the soloists are expertly balanced against the accompaniment and the overall sound is clear and pleasing. I listened to this hybrid SACD as a conventional CD. The notes are brief but tell you all you need to know about the music. “What about the title of the disc?”, I hear you ask. Apparently, Sir Neville, his son, Andrew and Howard Blake all patronised the same hairdressing salon in Knightsbridge, London. At first they weren’t aware that each of them was a client of Jean-Marie but through him they met in due course and planned this recording. Hence the witty album title which, for me, sets the seal on a collection of expertly crafted, very melodious and highly entertaining music. Since the music is so immaculately performed as well I can only conclude by saying ‘suits you, sir.’ John Quinn

 Released September 23rd 2013 by Pentatone Classics/hybrid multichannel/super audio. Link: http://onebitaudio/?cat=44

Recordings took place September 24-26 2012 in St. John's Smith Square with the Orchestra of The Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields. Clarinet Concerto perf. by Andrew Marriner with revisions previously unincorporated; Bassoon Concerto perf. by Gustavo Nunez (principal Concertgebouw Amsterdam); Flute Concerto perf. by Jaime Martin; Serenade for Wind Octet perf. by soloists from the orchestra. Music producer Andrew Keener, location sound engineering Erdo Groot and Roger de Schot from Polyhymnia, supervising producer Job Maarse for Pentatone. Editing Baarn Studios Netherlands.

25th November 2014 Orchestra and soloists of The Academy of St Martin in the Fields conducted by Sir Neville Marriner, Church of Saint Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, London

Concertos and wind octet, soloists to be confirmed.

3rd August 2011 Manchester Camerata Ensemble, Lake District Summer Music, Lakes Hall, Troutbeck Bridge, LA23 1HW,

13th March 2007 Janet Hilton directs RCM Woodwind Ensemble, Bishopsgate Institute, lunchtime concert series (with works by Malcolm Arnold and Jonathan Dove)
1st November 2006 Michael O'Donnell, Bryony Middleton (ob) Kimon Perry, Andrew Stainer(cl) Andrew Watson, Cory Barger(fg), Sam Pearce, Andrew Weber(hn)directed by Janet Hilton, 49 Queen's Gate Terrace, London
26th March 1994 Camerata Wind Soloists, Nicholas Yonge Society, Lewes Tertiary College
15th December 1990 Camerata Soloists, Seaton Music Club


The Serenade for Wind Octet seems to be dominated by a personalized chorale style; the second movement, Serioso, has a marvelous oboe solo and the finale is a dance that might be called worthy of Byrd or Bull. But, stylistically, this music belongs to no one other than Howard Blake. To steal a phrase from the late composer and critic Herbert Elwell, Howard Blake has shown us that “new things are still possible within the diatonic system”.

The album is titled The Barber of Neville, since Neville and Andrew Marriner --- as well as Howard Blake ----frequented the Kensington hairstyling salon of a man called Jean-Marie. Through Jean-Marie, the three men got together and planned the making of this recording. All four of them are shown in photographs in the accompanying booklet.

The Academy under Marriner (who will be 90 next year, and who has passed the symbolic baton to Joshua Bell while continuing to conduct the group from time to time), is one of the marvels of orchestral playing, having begun as a string ensemble and now greatly varied in size and scope as the repertory demands, with a core membership of about fifty to sixty musicians. It continually reveals new aspects of itself, having been heard over the last half-century plus in an unbelievable variety of repertory for ensembles of almost every size and description.

Christopher Hathaway, KUHF 88.7 - News for Houston. [ Music Library Reviews: Beethoven, Wagner, and Blake], 5/11/2013

...I am adding a few more works, mainly from England, that I have heard or often conducted and can recommend warmly Three works in particular I would like to mention. The first is the beautiful Richard Rodney Bennett Reflections on a 16th Century Tune (Novello), seamlessly re-scored by a master-craftsman from his original string orchestra version for double wind quintet with piccolo, cor, bass clarinet and contra bassoon. Another charming work for double quintet is Guy Woolfenden's Serenade for Sophie (Ariel), while for octet one of my favorite pieces is the Howard Blake Serenade.


Related Works

'*LIFECYCLE' op.489 (1996) (Audio Sample Available)
A sequence of 24 pieces for the piano - the complete 77 page album can be purchased by mail order

Related Autobiography Chapters

Move to the Sussex countryside (1971)
CHRISTMAS LULLABY for 2 sopranos and ensemble. JUBILATE DEO for choir and organ (1990)
'JAMES JOYCE SONGS' - tenor Richard-Edgar Wilson (2012)

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