*CLARINET CONCERTO op.329 (February 1984)

Concerto for clarinet and chamber orchestra commissioned and premiered by THEA KING
Published by: Highbridge Music Ltd
Commissioned by: Thea King and the English Chamber Orchestra
Instrumentation: 1.1.ca.0.2 - 2000 - strings
[Key to Abbreviations]
Duration: 23 mins
First Performance: Thea King, The English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Howard Blake, Queen Elizabeth Hall 30.5.1985,
Sheet Music Available
Full score for sale
Study score for sale
Orchestral parts for sale
Instrumental / piano score for sale
Instrumental parts for sale
Full score for hire
Study score for hire
Orchestral parts for hire
Recordings Available
Lutoslawski, Seiber and Blake - Clarinet Concertos
Released: 1987
Recorded: 1st June 1985
Artists: Thea King clarinet, English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Howard Blake
Available from: Hyperion (Helios)

1.CD THEA KING /English chamber orchestra/Conducted by HOWARD BLAKE/HYPERION A66215 1985

2. CD Thea King/ECO/'My England' compilation of the above on Resonance CDRSB505 

3. CD ANDREW MARRINER (giving the first performance of the concerto with the composer's revised version of the clarinet part for the first movement) /ACADEMY OF ST. MARTIN IN THE FIELDS/conducted by SIR NEVILLE MARRINER/TITLE OF ALBUM 'THE BARBER OF NEVILLE' PENTATONE CLASSICS SUPER AUDIO CD HYBRID MULTICHANNEL PTC 5186 506 2013  www.pentatonemusic.com


  • 1: Recitativo-Allegro ritmico
  • 2: Recitativo-Andante espressivo
  • 3: Vivace (intenso;molto ritmico)
    Round dance


The Clarinet Concerto was commissioned by Thea King and first performed by her at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London in June 1985, with the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by the composer. A nine-bar recitative leads to the first movement, ‘Invocation’, which develops a mysterious, syncopated theme in G minor. A horn note dies away to a second recitative which leads to the slow movement, ‘Ceremony’, a hushed cantilena using the clarinet’s capacity for sustained lyricism. The third movement uses its capacity for rapid passagework in the form of a restless but exuberant ‘Round Dance’ – an accompanied cadenza returning to the recitative material from the beginning of the work and confirming the strong feeling of the piece as being in one movement.
(Howard Blake)


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.

26th March 1994 Michael Collins, Jonathan Butcher, Surrey Philharmonic, Dorking Halls
20th May 1990 Emma Johnson, Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra, Brighton Festival
1st June 1988 Angela Malsbury, London Mozart Players conducted by Howard Shelley, Corn Exchange Cambridge
10th March 1987 Pascual Y Martinez, City of Palma Symphony Orchestra, Palma Auditorium
December 1985 Thea King, The English Chamber Orchestra, Valencia, Spain


Howard Blake is a versatile composer who may be better known for his marvellous film scores The Snowman and Granpa in which his gifts for colourful orchestration and memorable tunes are clearly evident. He nevertheless also composed a good deal of concert works including the superb choral-orchestral Benedictus and several concertos. Though the intent is overtly more serious, the music of the Clarinet Concerto of 1984 is still memorably tuneful, superbly scored and quite attractive. The Clarinet Concerto is in every respect a fine work that deserves wider currency, and Thea King’s advocacy should earn this fine piece many new friends, hopefully among clarinettists.

Hubert Culot, Helios, 9/2/2007

... I liked its easy lyricism and its flow of self-motivating rhythmic figures strung across insistent tonal pedal notes or ostinati in the lower strings.

Michael John White, The Guardian, 1/6/1988

Hyperion disk CDA 66215

....Howard Blake turns his unostentatious lyrical invention to the concert hall and produces a comparitively slight but endearing Clarinet Concerto which is played here with great sympathy by Thea King who commissioned the work. With its neo-classical feeling, it is improvisatory and reflective in its basic style, but produces plenty of energy in the finale with its whiff of Walton...it is extremely vividly recorded on CD- there is almost a sense of over-presence; the state-of-the-art chrome cassette however seems ideal in all respects.

Edwar Greenfield, The New Penguin Guide to Compact Discs & cassettes, 1/4/1988

Related Works

Concerto arranged for clarinet and piano

Related Autobiography Chapters


[Back to top]