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Clarinet Concerto


Howard Blake was born in London in 1938, but grew up in Brighton. At eighteen he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London where he studied piano with Harold Craxton and composition with Howard Ferguson. Then, during the next ten years, he proved himself a highly versatile, all-round musician, working in London as a pianist, conductor and orchestrator, but especially as a composer. In 1971 he left London to live in a watermill in Sussex, and started to forge a personal style of composition – rhythmic, contrapuntal, and above all melodic. Since then there has been a steady stream of works in many different forms: a Divertimento for cello and orchestra, the Clarinet Concerto, a Piano Quartet, Sinfonietta for brass, song cycles, a comic opera, piano music, and the large-scale choral and orchestral work Benedictus which has been given many major performances including the Three Choirs Festival 1987, Westminster and Canterbury Cathedrals, and Kings College, Cambridge, in 1988.

Howard Blake’s Barbican concerts for children enjoyed a huge success, featuring his music for The Snowman with its much-loved song ‘Walking in the Air’. Howard Blake has also composed widely for ballet, television, the cinema and the theatre. He lives once again in London and most of his music is now published by Faber Music.

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.

from notes by Howard Blake © 1986


Lutosławski, Seiber & Blake: Clarinet Concertos
CDA66215Archive Service


Movement 1: Invocation: Recitativo - Moderato, molto deciso
Movement 2: Ceremony: Recitativo - Lento serioso
Movement 3: Round dance: Vivace

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