FLUTE CONCERTO op.493A (October 1996)

A transcription from the original work for flute and string quartet.
Published by: Highbridge Music Ltd
Commissioned by: Gabrielle Byam-Grounds and English Serenata with assistance from West Midland Arts
Instrumentation: flute, vn1,vn2,va,vc,cb
[Key to Abbreviations]
Duration: 18 mins
First Performance: Audley End, 25.7.1995 Gabrielle Byam-Grounds (fl) Howard Snell(cond), English Sinfonia
Sheet Music Available
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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



  • 1: Allegro Cantando 3 minutes 48 seconds

    The first movement is quite simply a long-drawn-out melody which the flute 'sings' and then elaborates expressively.

  • 2: Scherzo con Spirito 3 minutes 41 seconds

    A rapid, syncopated movement with a 'floating' middle section.

  • 3: Andante espressivo 2 minutes 54 seconds

    A slow theme and a variation, culminating in a short cadenza, which leads to the fourth movement.

  • 4: Marcia Giocosa, cadenza and finale 6 minutes 10 seconds

    A mischievous 'whistling' march. However, the bustle and gaiety of this lively movement is interrupted by a second cadenza from which re-emerges a shimmering version of the theme from the first movement that now accelerates with a crescendo into a short and energetic Coda.


Composer's note: I played the flute at school and always held a special affinity for the instrument, often composing prominent solos for it within the context of my orchestral music, but never completing a concerto.  The flautist Gay Byam-Grounds had been the soloist and leader of the English Serenata who had formed the ensemble which helped me develop the full-length stage show of 'The Snowman'  from 1993 onwards. In 1996 as an enthusiastic performer of my music she summoned up the courage to commission a concerto and I accepted. The first movement's main theme had been in my mind for some years.


5th March 2022
- 5th March 2022
Nick Houghton, Anne Hodgson, All Saints Church, Lewes, Sussex. 7.45pm

Composer's note: I was given a beautiful old bronze flageolet by an aunt whilst in primary school, and I greatly enjoyed playing it. At 11 in the Cadet Corps Band at Brighton Grammar School I played military flute in B flat and piccolo in E flat, so I always held a special affinity for the instrument, often composing prominent solos for it within the context of my orchestral music, but never completing a concerto until this one in 1996.  Flautist Gay Byam-Grounds had been soloist and leader of the English Serenata who had formed the ensemble which had helped me develop the full-length stage show of 'The Snowman' from 1993 onwards. As an enthusiastic performer of my music she first commissioned a quintet for flute and string quartet which I then developed into this concerto for flute and string orchestra. It is in four movements:

1.Allegro cantando

2.Scherzo con spirito

3.Andante espressivo

4.Marcia giocoso 

Duration c.18' 

5th March 2022 Nick Houghton Anne Hodgson, All Saints Church, Lewes, Sussex 7.45pm
16th January 2021 Anna Hodgson and MAS, All Saints Church Lewes, Sussex
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.

13th January 2014 Conductor: Neville Marriner Ensemble: Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Soloist: Jaime Martin, Classic FM radio

Record Label: Pentatone

29th October 2013 Jaimie Martin, Sir Neville Marriner, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Classic FM London 8.54pm CD play
2nd October 2010 Rachel Coghlan flute, Daniel Parkinson conductor. Chester Chamber Orchestra, Wesley Methodist Hall, Chester
18th December 2009 Anthony Robb (flute), Oxford Philomusica, Howard Blake (conductor), Sheldonian, Oxford


Almost all of the pieces listed above are being heard on records for the first time; the Clarinet Concerto, in which Sir Neville Marriner’s son Andrew (principal clarinet of the London Symphony) is soloist, is being recorded for the first time in the revised edition. Howard Blake, an Englishman who is now 75 years old, is much like his late American counterpart Alec Wilder in that he sees little if any distinction between “popular” and “serious” music---for want of better nomenclature. His style is lyrical above all, and his professional and contrapuntal grounding sets him apart from mere tunesmiths. He can write memorable melodies and he knows how to shape them and how to orchestrate them---in the marvelously compact first movement of the Flute Concerto, for instance, the melodic line is briefly traded off with the ‘cello. The Scherzo (second movement) is superb idiomatic flute writing, with deft handling of the strings. The slow movement is a deeply felt Andante espressivo, a piece that seems to be all about the flute’s middle register and the warmth of the lower strings. The finale is a march marked Grazioso. Jaime Martin is a marvelous artist who plays expressively, securely and without affectation.

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

His Flute Quintet (also in its arrangement as Flute Concerto) declares a no-barriers statement of faith in that good-hearted marriage between joy, melody, pensive asides and solace. Avoiding blandness he spirits the listener away with enchantingly imagined and expressed moods and cheerful merry-eyed delight. Much the same applies to the light-suffused warmth and Gallic impressionism of the Trio for flute, cello and harp. This would go well in the same concert as the Ravel Introduction and Allegro and the Bax Elegiac Trio.
Read more: http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2009/Sept09/Blake_survey.htm#ixzz1dJiRnWak

Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International, 7/6/2010

Related Works

'*FLUTE QUINTET' op.493 (September 1996) (Audio Sample Available)
Concert work in 4 movements for flute and string quartet
An arrangement of the flute quintet, opus 493.

Related Autobiography Chapters

'JAMES JOYCE SONGS' - tenor Richard-Edgar Wilson (2012)

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