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All sheet music for "The Snowman" and "Walking In The Air" since 2010 is published and available from Chester Music Ltd, part of The Music Sales Group, www.chesternovello.com It can be purchased online from MusicRoom.com, or from music retailers.
"Walking In The Air" is also available in a concert piano-only version arranged by the composer direct from Highbridge Music as part of the collection of piano pieces called "Lifecycle", available form Amazon or from Highbridge Music; enquiries to email@example.com
Howard Blake describes 25 years of The Snowman animated film and 10 years of The Snowman Stage Show at Sadler's Wells Peacock Theatre in London's West End and plays "Walking in the Air". View the recording here.
The classic original Columbia album conducted by Howard Blake with treble soloist Peter Auty and narration by Bernard Cribbins is available from Sony Music Entertainment CDX71116CD, Amazon and retailers.
The 2010 DVD film of The Snowman Live Stage Show narrated by Joanna Lumley is available from Sony Music Entertainment, CDR 81267; also from Amazon and retailers.
Programme-note for 'Snowman Rhapsody'
In 2006 Robert Matthew Walker, music critic and editor of Musical Opinion attended a performance of the 2-act stage show 'The Snowman' at The Peacock Theatre and wrote: 'Howard Blake's ballet "The Snowman" is now such a part of the Christmas Season in London that it deserves to be produced again and again well into the 22nd century. It is one of those rare theatrical pieces that appeals and impresses theatregoers of all ages. Musically, the score is a masterpiece. I do not use the word lightly. Howard Blake's world famous song 'Walking in the Air', with which Aled Jones had such a success, is used as a basis for a virtually continuous set of symphonic variations; a subtle and fully-wrought score which entrances the ears of all who are brought into the magical world it conjures up'. Both the original animated film and the later-created ballet were of course originally scored for orchestra, but the composer is also a pianist and over the years has often played excerpts on piano, the most notable being that of the song 'Walking in the Air' which in 2013 was recorded by no less a colleague than Vladimir Ashkenazy. The success of this prompted Blake to pursue the concept further, assembling all those sections of the Snowman music which he felt might lend themselves to piano transcription and gradually creating an immense concert work for solo piano lasting about 43 minutes. Although continuous the work contains many different sections the names of which are printed in the programme. It is thought that perhaps an addition to the work's entertainment may well be derived from the guesswork of trying to identify the sections by the different styles and emotions conveyed by their music.
COBLENZ INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL PRESENT A PROGRAMME OF MUSIC BY HOWARD BLAKE TO CELEBRATE HIS 80th YEAR. Der Alten Kirche, Spay, Coblenz, September 9th., 2018 at 17.00 pm
1. SPEECH AFTER LONG SILENCE for solo piano, a piece commissioned by Vladimir Ashkenazy for the Hong Kong International Piano Competition 2011 (Opus 610) solo piano: Florian Koltun
'Unlike most new works, whose fate is to be played on multiple occasions ad nauseam at a competition and then shelved for eternity thereafter, this one promises to be heard rather often. Blake’s partiality for tonality and emotional connection (unsurprising for the composer of the children’s favourite The Snowman) makes this a most accessible work. At about 8 minutes, its Romantic gestures replete with lush harmonies and crashing chords resemble an updated and extended version of one of Rachmaninov’s Etudes-tableaux' Chang Tou Lang,
2. ‘DIVERSIONS FOR CELLO AND PIANO’, the work that in 2010 won Benedict Kloeckner the European Broadcasting Union first prize (Opus 337A) Piano Howard Blake, Cello Benedict Kloeckner
1: Prelude (moderato) 2: Scherzo (vivace) 3: March (tempo di marcia) 4: Waltz (vivo) 5: Aria (andante espressivo) 6: Serenade (allegretto) 7: Sarabande (lento non troppo) 8: Finale (vivo) minutes 27 seconds
‘Diversions’ was originally conceived as a suite for cello and piano as far back as 1973. In 1984 the great French cellist Maurice Gendron encouraged the composer to rework the piece for cello and orchestra, and he himself edited the cello part. The first performance of the work in this orchestral form was given by Steven Isserlis and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Groves at The Fairfield Halls Croydon on 29th March 1989. This transcription for cello and piano was made by the composer at about the same time
The work pays mischievous homage to instrumental suites of the past. The Scherzo is not quite a scherzo, the March more than a march. The Waltz has a wrong-stepping jazz tinge to it, the Aria a sudden profundity. The Serenade bursts into arrogant display, the guitar-like Sarabande becomes an eloquent cadenza. We are led back to the theme of the Prelude via a Finale of such bristling virtuosic energy that its simple melodic line assumes a far more complex character – having been well and truly ‘diverted’.Diversions' is also the name of an album of music by Howard Blake for cello and piano played by Benedict Kloeckner and the composer, released in 2015 by the Leipzig label Genuin. ’Benedict Kloeckner plays the cello music of Howard Blake, with the composer himself accompanying - unfailingly attractive and often tremendous fun for both performers and lsiteners., THE STRAD, 2/2018
3. PIANO TRIO NO. 3 ‘ELEGIA STRAVAGANTE’ (Opus 654) a trio in 7 linked movements, first performed at the Coblenz International Music Festival 2013 Violin Wolfgang Schroeder, Cello Benedict Kloeckner, Piano Howard Blake
Composer's notes: On the afternoon of my birthday I went to sleep for a short while and dreamed up a septuplet 'trill-flourish' motif in C major and an ensuing 'upward-sweeping' melodic fragment of a minor 2nd and major 7th, both of which I immediately wrote down. This was to be the material on which the trio was based.
I was searching for a 6/8 allegro idea and worked at several until I suddenly remembered the 'jazz fugue' from 'Movement for orchestra' which I'd written way back in about 1963. It seemed to fit perfectly and work most effectively for piano trio, forming a perfect link between the Andante (rapsodico) and the next section Tragico.
Tragico begins with the upward-sweeping motif, but now very slow and sad. This forms a bridge and modulation to E-minor where the cello enunciates the theme 'Parting', a fragment I had dreamt up whilst preparing the repertoire for Vladimir Ashkenazy's album of my piano works in June 2013. Here the 'Parting' theme develops greatly, leading quite rapidly and unexpectedly to a colossal climax, then falling down to a paused low chord of C major which begins section 4.
Grave molto espressivo is a deeply-felt cadenza for violin and cello which then starts to accelerate (piu mosso) towards section 5
Cello and violin play in unison at the 16th against a constantly turning piano phrase using the ever-present 'trill-flourish' motif. Martial and tragic hints and twists are now overcome by massive upward scalic movements seeking a major key and suddenly triumphantly asserting that of E major.
Giojoso, ecstatico transforms and inverts the minor 'upward-sweeping' theme into a major 'hymn of triumph' punctuated with huge piano chords. The energy of this is so great however that it must inevitably sink down to regain stability and a hardly-moving harmonic 'thirds duplet' grows gradually quieter and slower until it sinks away to nothing without resolution.
The music of the opening returns but this time in the key to which the piece has ascended - E major, the final bar picking up the 'trill-flourish' motif and giving the whole work a resolution with a very short coda on violin and cello sounding alone - yet perhaps finally together. The piano is wise enough not to interfere
4. PIANO QUARTET (Opus 179) Xin Wang (piano), Wolfgang Schroeder (violin), Karolina Herrera (viola), Benedict Kloeckner (cello)
A dramatic theme A (and in A minor) is presented by unison violin and viola over a pounding rhythm that would be equally at home in rock. A second theme B is equally rhythmic on contrapuntal strings over hammering piano semiquavers but subsides into a lyrical C minor piano version of A against legato strings. This subsides further again into a Theme C (and in C major) announced by the cello. It is spread across the three strings against piano chords gradually dying down to a held F sharp unison. This kicks off the development by taking us back to the first tempo but this time featuring theme B with running semiquavers which build and build until a pedal pulls us back into a full-bodied return of our home theme A on full strings and rocking piano chords.
A very fast tempo allows all instruments to fly through a Scherzo of heavily-syncopated rhythms and riotous escapades. It follows the scherzo form with a trio featuring predominantly piano against pizzicato cello, but they yield to questioning phrases on violin and viola before recapping to the scherzo and a noisy coda.
3. Lento espressivo
The deeply reflective E major slow movement of the Piano Quartet has always been particularly dear to me. I wrote it one beautiful Spring afternoon in 1974 at Highbridge Mill, with sun streaming through the window and total silence. It begins with a major third repeated on the piano acting as a bell-like accompaniment to three statements of a four-note rising phrase, firstly started by violin, secondly by viola and thirdly by cello. The piano weaves intricate patterns around them until the four notes echo again in a diminuendo of violin, viola and cello to a close.
The fourth movement is pure sixties. A jig-like rhythmic theme A is presented in 3-part string canon in several transpositions against vibrant 'rock 'n roll' chording. A second theme B on the dominant is presented on the viola against rising minims. Theme A returns in a piano solo doubling at the 16th but stops abruptly to reveal very quiet slow piano chords. Against them is placed a mysterious theme C which builds to a surprisingly large climax. It does this again in a different key but at the height of the climax this time hurls us back into theme B. Cello begins a strict fugue which is joined by viola, violin and piano building into a powerful stretto which bursts straight back into the 3-part contrapuntal jig of the beginning and a unison accelerando coda.
The opening of the first movement is used as a signature theme by KUSC, the audience-supported classical music radio station of the University of Southern California. Its composer is delighted and honoured by this
An animated film made by TVC/Channel 4 1997/98 with many of the same team who made 'The Snowman' (1982) it is similarly based on a wordless picture-book by Raymond Briggs and called 'The Bear' (published by Julia Macrae Books), but was directed and scripted by Hilary Audus in conjunction with Joanna Harrison. Music and lyrics are by Howard Blake who also conducted The Philharmonia Orchestra and the singers: Charlotte Church (girl soprano), Martyn Hill (tenor) and Peter Knapp (bass).
Howard Blake writes: All the sung parts in the film originally had lyrics but sadly producer John Coates decided they were better sung to 'la, la,la' which was a great pity, particularly for Charlotte Church who was the discovery of the film and soon after soared to stardom. I wrote music and lyrics of 'Somewhere a star shines for everyone' especially for her as 'she' skates down the frozen Thames. In the version shown on TV today however these lyrics are only heard in the very end sequence. If heard with all the lyrics 'The Bear' starts to become like a little animated opera. It was brilliantly performed live in this way in Christmas 2017 at the Forum Arts Centre, Bath. Jason Thornton conducted brilliant performances with The Bath Philharmonia and singers.
Soon after The Bear's release it appears that the producers sold some or all of the rights to Harvey Weinstein, who evidently loved the music I had written. He rang me and said: 'The score for The Bear is not just good, it's brilliant. You are my man!' However I never heard from him again and for a while the film appeared in USA with a desperately inappropriate narration which drowned out all the music. . This seems to have been corrected at least in the UK, and it was good to watch with just the music as originally intended. Well done London Live! Perhaps eventually the lyrics will also return?
Film, score, orchestral parts and vocal parts with lyrics available for performance by contacting Highbridge Music: firstname.lastname@example.org 07711 617718
A capacity house included the presence of the Swedish Catholic Cardinal Arbelius. The composer had flown over for the occasion with English tenor soloist Richard Edgar Wilson. The work was superbly performed by all concerned and the audience greeted it with great enthusiasm.
Blake – The Bear
Blake – The Snowman
Set course for our annual trip to the North Pole just in time to see the Northern Lights, meet Father Christmas and have a dance with a snowman or two. The Snowman has become an unparalleled Christmas tradition, and The Bear is a perfect counterpart telling the story of Tilly’s attempts to help an escaped polar bear return home. This magical double bill is the perfect Christmas treat for all the family with Bath Philharmonia playing Howard Blake’s scores live to Raymond Briggs’ amazing animations.
Please note: Babes in arms may sit on their parent/carer’s lap however anyone aged 2 or above must have their own ticket and reserved seat.
© Snowman Enterprises Limited “The Snowman” by Raymond Briggs is published by Puffin, image © Snowman Enterprises Ltd, www.thesnowman.com
THREE BALLETS DIRECTED AND CHOREOGRAPHED BY ROBERT NORTH
From paintings of the Renaissance and the classical modernity Robert North draws the ideas for this opulent ballet evening, to which the Niederrheinische Sinfoniker give musical splendor.
Henri Matisse caused a sensation in the 1940s with a series of paper cutouts, including many circus motifs. He was no stranger to the circles of the European avant-garde when this cycle appeared under the title Jazz - an allusion to the principle of improvisation. Robert North approaches Matisse with the eye and the imagination of the choreographer and gains exciting impulses for the dance from the colorfulness, ornamentation and clarity of the images in combination with music by Stravinsky.
A popular subject in Florentine painting of the 15th century, which also Sandro Botticelli took up, is the Annunciation to Mary. Botticelli made this biblical scene so theatrically expressive that Robert North felt inspired by the painting and, in collaboration with the composer Howard Blake, freely interpreted The Annunciation as ballet.