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First performance: Jack Rothstein/Howard Blake, 'Music in May', Forsyth's Barn, Ansty, Cuckfield, Sussex, May, 1974Second performance: Jack Rothstein/Howard Blake, Purcell Room, Southbank, London, October 28th 1974
Originally composed for Jack Rothstein 1973
Revised in 1994 for Christiane Edinger
All 3 movements extensively revised August/September 2007 for Madeleine Mitchell and renamed as Madeleine Mitchell, Violin Sonata no.2, recorded for Naxos by Madeleine Mitchell and the composer in 2008
Composer's note: In February 2007 I found myself conducting in Edinburgh and the cellist from Miles' quartet, Mark Bailey, who was playing in the orchestra, approached me and we reminisced a little. I started to recall Miles' playing from all those years ago. He had very high ideals in regard to music and strong opinions as to the quality and importance of the greatest composers. Perhaps for this very reason I had never summoned up the temerity to thrust my own work on him. During this conversation however the idea of some sort of musical tribute to Miles was briefly mooted, although it got no further, yet during the summer I dug out the material and looked at it again, some of it going back as far as 50 years! Suddenly I conceived a completely new beginning and this set me on the path of extensively and ferociously revising the entire piece. Whilst writing I constantly remembered Miles virtuosity and artistic punctiliousness, his views on music and his extreme conscientiousness as regards to markings, tempo and dynamics. Having completed it I marked it 'Dedicated to the memory of Miles Baster.' The slow movement might seem to have a requiem-like quality, although the work is of a virtuoso nature throughout. I can only hope that he might conceivably have approved. That would have been a rare honour.'
|26th April 2022||Lana Trotovcek (violin),
Howard Blake(piano), Midday concert in Chapel Royal Brighton (1.00pm)
1. Solo violin Prelude from 'Benedictus' op.643
2. Sonata for violin and piano in three movements:op.169
(Themes of some of Howard's famous films, arranged for violin and piano:)
Laura's theme from 'The Duellists'
Music Box theme from 'The Changeling'
Dulcibella from 'The Riddle of the Sands'
Romance from 'Agatha'
Main theme from 'Gentlefolk' (a BBC Play of the Month)
'Walking in the Air' from 'The Snowman' op.711
|26th April 2022||LANA TROTOVSEK
HOWARD BLAKE, CHAPEL ROYAL BRIGHTON
First performance of 'Film Themes' for violin and piano
|26th January 2021||Jack Rothstein violin, Howard Blake piano, Watermill Recordings, Highbridge Mill, Sussex
In 1971, tired of London life and the eternal carousel of commercial work for TV and films, Howard Blake prematurely retired to the idyllic Sussex countryside for the express purpose of writing serious music: music for its own sake. Determined to fill in the gaps left by his Royal Academy education, he set about teaching himself advanced counterpoint, harmonic theory and dedicated himself to writing serious works shorn of any commercial considerations. One of the great fruits of this period is his Violin Sonata. Although it would be reworked in later years, this is the original version, played magnificently by the virtuoso violinist Jack Rothstein, with the composer himself at the piano. This is a ‘live in the studio’ recording, completely unedited and never previously released. 1: Allegro 0:00 All images from the composer’s private photo album, contemporary with the work, Sussex, 1971. 2: Lento 7:04 Selected paintings including works by Ruskin Spear, a friend of the composer. 3: Vivace 13:53 Video footage by Kelly Lacy @pexels. Compiled and edited by Emmett Elvin For sound recordings, sheet music, biographical information etc, please visit: https://www.howardblake.com https://www.highbridgemusic.co.uk
|25th January 2021||Jack Rothstein violin, Howard Blake piano, This is the original recording made just after it was composed in 1973|
|3rd December 2019||Paul Gregory (solo acoustic guitar), Alan Parmenter (violin), Howard Blake (piano), Chapel Royal, North Street,Brighton Tuesday 3rd December 1.00pm|
Brighton Year-Round 2019
Alan Parmenter and Howard Blake Violin and Piano Recital
Alan Parmenter and Howard Blake
Festival: Brighton Year-Round
Alan Parmenter and Howard Blake gave a violin and piano recital of Blake’s compositions: The Penillion Op 586 from 1975 revised 2005, the Solo Guitar Prelude Sarabande and Gigue Op 477 from January 1995 and the Violin Sonata Op 571 (1973/2007).
Violinist Alan Parmenter joins composer and pianist Howard Blake for a very special recital.
Blake we know as the composer of The Snowman, as well as 204 commercial ads including reintroducing many classical music hits – the ‘Bell Song’ duet from Delibes’ Lakmé has worked for BA over 30 even 40 years.
Still his opus numbers total well over 600. Two compositions he returned to in the mid-noughties date originally from the 1970s but they’ve been overhauled. You can find them with his Piano Quintet on an acclaimed Naxos disc.
First was the Penillion Op 571 for Violin and Piano from 1975 revised 2005. Parmenter has a full but penetrating tone, and with the composer at the piano providing a sterling through-line this was always gong to be authoritative. It’s a work with the Theme at the opening and conclusion with six variations in between. It’s memorable, a mix of jaunty wistfulness and jazzy syncopations, elements of those commercial imprints Blake himself claims.
The melodic profile is keen, with an upward-moving theme worked though various tempi like moderato vivo, L’istesso tempo (same as before), Meno mosso, Allegro, Lento, Moderato Blake’s long-breathed melodies jaunt with sudden jagged upswings though generally smoothly shifting harmonies, with a popular melodic idiom almost on the breath of the work, but with its own personal integrity, somewhere where the highest kind of film music is distilled into utterly memorable chamber works like this one.
We then heard a masterwork, played by Paul Gregory on guitar. This is the Prelude Sarabande and Gigue Op 477, a typical guitar triptych. It’s a work from January 1995, again not only memorable but with its teeming invention in the quiet gentle Prelude, the Sarabande slipping quietly into an earworm and then a Gigue as memorable and fine as one of the Five Preludes of Villa-Lobos with its anticipated wrong-footing chords (like Beethoven’s Violin Sonata Op 12/3 with the violin and piano playing catch-up) this characterful works concluded. It really should be standard repertoire It’s the most distinct piece for guitar since Walton’s Five Pieces and Richard Rodney Bennett’s. Gregory is known as a sovereign interpreter, and here he gathered in the work’s expressive range, easy to bloom in this acoustic.
The Violin Sonata Op 586 from 1973 revised 2007 shares similar material with the slightly earlier Penillion opens with an Allegro reminding us of the work we heard at the opening. It’s fast-paced but not aggressive, sashaying in an out of a gently jazzy theme drawn on an Alberti bass.
The Lento in John Ireland’s mildly sinewy vein rippling to a kind of peace, perhaps gives no hint of the fiercer Presto to come, full of explosive lyric force. There’s a snap and ferocity at the end you’d not predict. Ireland yes but really Blake sounds only like himself. Parmenter summons piercing stratospheric sonance allied to a truly digging-out of those rhythmic figures, even more extreme than I’ve heard anywhere else. Blake throughout enthuses in the snappiness of his own part-writing,
A masterly composer whose works we all know more than we think, beyond The Snowman, this was treasurable.
Published December 4, 2019 by Simon Jenner
Simon Jenner, Brighton Year-Round, 4/12/2019