October 8th 2008

Review from February 1999

Congratulations to Howard Blake on his 70th Birthday - interview with Bob Briggs

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Howard BLAKE Violin Concerto "The Leeds"; A Month in the Country; Sinfonietta for 10 brass instruments
. Christiane Edinger (violin) English Northern Philharmonia conducted by Paul Daniel


If you like lush, Romantic music, look no further. This is a magnificent, accessible concerto from the composer of the music for the highly successful animated film of The Snowman. It is the sort of music that any film producer would give his eye teeth for - dramatic, heroic, atmospheric and lyrical with beautiful soaring melodies but above all it is resolutely tonal. It was commissioned by Leeds City Council for the Leeds 1993 City Centenary, hence its title, although judging from Howard Blake's own CD booklet notes, there is no programme. It is absolute music to be enjoyed in its own right; nonethless, one is occasionally tempted to guess at some extra musical influence - for instance, the a robust passage for brass in the lengthy first movement that might describe the forthright but dependable Yorkshire personality. Christiane Edinger rises, with aplomb, to its technical challenges, especially in the bravura third movement with its quadruple stoppings, pizzicati and dazzling broken chords. Daniels provides a thrilling and sensitive accompaniment. The sound throughout this programme is excellent.

Violin Concerto - "The Leeds" (1992)
Violin Concerto: 1st Movement Allegro Assai excerpt 1 excerpt 2
Violin Concerto: 2nd Movement Adagio (Calma) excerpt
Violin Concerto: 3rd Movement Allegro con brio excerpt

For the 1986 Euston Films/Channel 4 film A Month in the Country, Blake wrote a sympathetic score which ideally suited this story of two former soldiers coming to terms with the horrors of the Great War amidst the serenity of the English countryside. This suite for strings contrasts lyrical, pastoral music recalling Warlock, Vaughan Williams, Delius and Finzi (yet never swamping Blake's own melodic style) with other movements suggesting soldiers' trudging marching figures, and the despair and waste of war.

A Month in the Country - Suite for Strings (1986/1993)
A Month in the Country: Larghetto excerpt
A Month in the Country: Alla Marcia
A Month in the Country: Adagio (Elegy) excerpt
A Month in the Country: Scherzando
A Month in the Country: Andante espressivo excerpt

The Sinfonietta for brass instruments (1981) is a brilliant and colourful work with an imposing Maestoso first movment, a techically innovative and demanding Andante and a vivacous Presto.

Sinfonietta - for ten brass instruments (1981)

Sinfonietta: Maestoso excerpt
Sinfonietta: Andante serioso excerpt
Sinfonietta: Presto excerpt
Sinfonietta: Maestoso - Allegro ritmico excerpt




Ian Lace

(CD cover shows the Victoria Town Hall, Leeds)


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