BASSOON CONCERTO op.607 (September 2009)

Concerto for bassoon and string orchestra
Published by: Highbridge Music Limited
Instrumentation: Bassoon, violin 1 & 2, viola, cello, bass

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Duration: 14:2
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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 1971 Howard composed a quintet for oboe and string quartet which was given a student performance at the RCM by David Powell, later oboist with the BBC Philharmonic. However no further promotion of the work was made after that time and the composer left it amongst  pieces 'under consideration for revision'. In 2009 a suggestion was made by Bob Briggs and Len Mullenger of Music Web International that Howard should hear the brilliant young bassoonist Karen Geoghegan at a forthcoming Prom with a view to possibly writing a new concerto for her and the proposal that the work should be recorded by Chandos Records. Howard met Karen after the concert and she expressed an interest in the proposal. On reflection Howard believed that the early oboe quintet might translate well for bassoon and during the course of the summer he reshaped the material into this concerto for bassoon and string orchestra. Karen played it through with Howard and was delighted. Music critic Bob Briggs wrote : 'The Concerto is in three movements, a medium paced opening one - Moderato - a very beautiful slow movement and a sparkling Presto finale with a cadenza which brings together music from all three movements.' The project unravelled however when Ralph Couzens of Chandos signed Karen and much to everybody's dismay decided against including the work in her proposed recording schedule. However, in 2011 Sir Neville Marriner suggested including it in an album of Howard Blake woodwind concertos and approached Gustavo Nunes as soloist. It was recorded in St John Smith Square in September 2012

First concert performance tba.



  • 1: Moderato 6 minutes 03 seconds
  • 2: Larghetto 2 minutes 37 seconds
  • 3: Presto 5 minutes 22 seconds


Recording for Pentatone conducted by Sir Neville Marriner, The Orchestra of The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields with soloist Gustavo Nunes (1st bassoon of the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam)

Ist concert perf. tba


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.


The Bassoon Concerto, in which soloist Gustavo Nuñez is in wonderful form, is the only one of the three concertos presented here that has an extensive cadenza----in the last movement. It begins with a march-like first movement, in which’s Blake’s lyrical spirit soon takes over. The whole concerto is an ingenious adaptation of the stile gallant to today. Indeed, all of these concertos are written for a Haydn-sized orchestra, more or less, without percussion. Two of them are scored for a string group, but one has the sense that Blake is using strings as a total orchestra, not just as several choirs of one species of musical instrument. It is the newest work on the album, having been completed just four years ago.

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

Related Works

'OBOE QUINTET (for oboe and string quartet)' op.131 (July 1971) (Audio Sample Available)
Concert work in 3 movements
A transcription from the original oboe quintet.

Related Autobiography Chapters

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

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