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Originally titled 'Fantasy-Allegro and published as a separate piece by Chappell's Educational Music in 1962.
Based on sketches composed in 1956
Based on sketches composed in 1956
|21st June 2015||Daniel Bhattacharya, violin, Bruce White, viola, Peter Adams cello, Sasha Grynyuk, piano, Brighton Unitarian Church, New Road, Brighton, BN1 1UF concert Sunday 5.00pm
A concert of music by Howard Blake presented by The Brighton Philharmonic Society including the premiere of Piano Trio no,1 composed in Brighton when the composer was 17,
BRIGHTON PHILHARMONIC SUMMER MUSIC
Solstice, and the first of the Summer Season of chamber concerts which have now become a familiar feature of Brighton Philharmonic’s programme. Howard Blake is a very familiar figure as a result of his many film scores – to say nothing of The Snowman – but his other compositions are equally appealing. Though a recent injury to his wrist meant he was not able to play the piano parts himself he was present to introduce the music with a gentle humour which suited the occasion and the intimacy of the setting.
The short programme reflected a long-standing interest in the complexity of writing for chamber instruments, opening with a recent arrangement of Pennillion for cello and piano. Originally conceived for harp and piano, it has gone through a number of arrangements before arriving at the present one. The opening melody is intensely lyrical. Blake’s melodic gift is similar to that of Elgar or Tippett in that the melodies seem so inevitable that we can’t believe we have not known them all our lives and he is just recalling a tune we all know already. The work moves rapidly through a set of variations which allow the cellist, Peter Adams, to show his technical skill as well as his sensitivity towards the subtleties of the melody.
The following Fantasy Trio was being given its first performance though the original idea for the score goes back to his early school days. It is obviously difficult on a first hearing to judge how much is the work of the 17 year old and how much the mature composer, but the melodic ideas and the confidence of the work must have been part of the original spark and as such are a tribute to his genius from an early age. The part writing is exemplary, maintaining a balance between them which never allows one voice to dominate. The final Scherzando is more complex both in rhythm and harmonic density.
Howard Blake admitted that the String Trio is probably the most challenging form for him as it constantly misses the fourth note of the chord. The Trio dating from 1975 is a fierce work with a dark edge to it, strengthened by the deeper tones of viola and cello. The violin, Daniel Bhattacharya, takes the lead throughout though he is often challenged by the viola line from Bruce White.
The final piece was a recent extended single movement entitled Elegia Stravagante – a title suggested by a waiter as it is a reflective elegy which ends with unexpected enthusiasm. Though Howard Blake admitted there are strong auto-biographical elements within it, the piece moves rapidly as a whole with universal rather than personal impact. The seven sections are difficult to follow but the sense of achievement by the climax is persuasive.
As Howard Blake was not able to play the piano parts Sasha Grynyuk proved to be a more than ample substitute, bringing a fine mix of subtlety and bravura to his playing.
The next concert is on Sunday 5 July with music by Frank Bridge and Haydn.
Brighton Philharmonic Summer Season – Howard Blake
The new season began brilliantly! Peter Adams, the Philharmonic’s popular principal cello, was the virtuoso backbone of four chamber works covering the entire span of Brighton-bred Blake’s distinguished career. From the re-worked teenage Fantasy-trio of 1956 to last year’s ‘Elegia Stravagante’, each work was full of glorious melody and rhythmic complexity. The composer’s amiable introductions and helpful programme notes illuminated these delightful works even more. Blake is still recovering from a broken wrist so the piano part was played, at just a few days’ notice, by the excellent Sacha Grynyuk. Daniel Bhattacharya (violin) and Bruce White (viola) completed the ensemble.
Unitarian Church Brighton 21 June 2015
Andrew Connal, Classical Reviews, 21/6/2015