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 Posted:   Jul 19, 2013 - 4:39 PM   
 By:   Kari Tuhkanen   (Member)

Not much talk here about this brilliant composer, so here goes:

I have been an admirer of Howard Blake´s music since I first saw The Snowman (I´m sure many here share the similar experience) in the mid 80´s, and was mesmerised by the haunting quality of it all, the one work he is most remembered, especially due to a song Walking in the Air. He belongs to that brilliant breed of British film composers, whose talent for melody and orchestration seems innate (Scott, Gunning, Harvey et al.), and his music has that stamp of a master composer one can only listen in awe. Christopher Palmer once spoke of Blake´s strong feeling for line, and not just melody, that counterpoint is far more of the essence of his music than harmony. No arguments from me.

A few recommendations:

-The Snowman, such warm and lovely music, melancholic and joyful. There´s almost chamber music-like feel in it (he´s composed his fair share of it, beautiful stuff). Piano is prominent throughout, and the woodwind and strings add great charm and warmth. And once you hear that song, you´ll never get it out of your head (funny thing, Blake didn´t even compose this melody to The Snowman in the first place). This music, as in fact practically all his music, is full of melodic invention.
-Granpa, another animated film by the same team, this time a short musical. A heart-breaking story gets some of Blake´s most poignant music, especially the closing song Make-Believe sung beautifully by young Sarah Brightman.
-The Bear, last of Blake´s great children´s trilogy, again by mostly the same team. They tried to recreate their former glory and very closely succeeded in it. Blake is as sharp as ever, composing for an unusual combination of a girl´s voice and two male voices (tenor and bass, wordless all), and orchestra. These three scores are really variations on a theme, capturing the joys and wonders (and a bit of sorrow) of childhood in a way I have heard very rarely (Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Hook spring to mind).
-The Conquest of Space, composed for a TV satellite Astra, a brilliant piece, portraying launching of the rocket, its ascent into space and an astral `song for universal peace´. It´s a thrilling 15-minute work, truly dynamic and uplifting.
-The Riddle of the Sands, a turn of the century spy story. This is my favourite feature-length film score of Blake´s, a hauntingly evocative work; especially rich choral writing here.
-Clarinet Concerto, autumnal, Snowman-like work, tinged with melancholic yearning (shades of Herrmann). For me, on a par with Vaughan Williams´ Oboe Concerto.
-Piano Concerto, a light-heartedly happy and exuberant, exquisitely beautiful work, performed by the man himself on a recording. Echoes of Ravel´s Piano Concerto in G major.
-Violin Concerto. I consider this one of his finest, a terrific work, ravishingly beautiful and powerful. Slow movement is pure bliss. For me, Blake´s concerto is there with Sibelius´ and Walton´s.

Blake has composed remarkably little film and TV music considering his reputation, but his admirers need not to worry, as his "serious work" doesn´t differ that much from his film music. Restrain in a minimum, if you will.

All these works have been released on CD, except The Bear, which can be found on DVD, and because this short animated film has no dialogue or sound effects, there´s really no difference as a listening experience.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 20, 2013 - 12:27 AM   
 By:   Tall Guy   (Member)

Not much talk here about this brilliant composer, so here goes:

I have been an admirer of Howard Blake´s music since I first saw The Snowman (I´m sure many here share the similar experience) in the mid 80´s, and was mesmerised by the haunting quality of it all, the one work he is most remembered, especially due to a song Walking in the Air. He belongs to that brilliant breed of British film composers, whose talent for melody and orchestration seems innate (Scott, Gunning, Harvey et al.), and his music has that stamp of a master composer one can only listen in awe. Christopher Palmer once spoke of Blake´s strong feeling for line, and not just melody, that counterpoint is far more of the essence of his music than harmony. No arguments from me.

A few recommendations:

-The Snowman, such warm and lovely music, melancholic and joyful. There´s almost chamber music-like feel in it (he´s composed his fair share of it, beautiful stuff). Piano is prominent throughout, and the woodwind and strings add great charm and warmth. And once you hear that song, you´ll never get it out of your head (funny thing, Blake didn´t even compose this melody to The Snowman in the first place). This music, as in fact practically all his music, is full of melodic invention.
-Granpa, another animated film by the same team, this time a short musical. A heart-breaking story gets some of Blake´s most poignant music, especially the closing song Make-Believe sung beautifully by young Sarah Brightman.
-The Bear, last of Blake´s great children´s trilogy, again by mostly the same team. They tried to recreate their former glory and very closely succeeded in it. Blake is as sharp as ever, composing for an unusual combination of a girl´s voice and two male voices (tenor and bass, wordless all), and orchestra. These three scores are really variations on a theme, capturing the joys and wonders (and a bit of sorrow) of childhood in a way I have heard very rarely (Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Hook spring to mind).
-The Conquest of Space, composed for a TV satellite Astra, a brilliant piece, portraying launching of the rocket, its ascent into space and an astral `song for universal peace´. It´s a thrilling 15-minute work, truly dynamic and uplifting.
-The Riddle of the Sands, a turn of the century spy story. This is my favourite feature-length film score of Blake´s, a hauntingly evocative work; especially rich choral writing here.
-Clarinet Concerto, autumnal, Snowman-like work, tinged with melancholic yearning (shades of Herrmann). For me, on a par with Vaughan Williams´ Oboe Concerto.
-Piano Concerto, a light-heartedly happy and exuberant, exquisitely beautiful work, performed by the man himself on a recording. Echoes of Ravel´s Piano Concerto in G major.
-Violin Concerto. I consider this one of his finest, a terrific work, ravishingly beautiful and powerful. Slow movement is pure bliss. For me, Blake´s concerto is there with Sibelius´ and Walton´s.

Blake has composed remarkably little film and TV music considering his reputation, but his admirers need not to worry, as his "serious work" doesn´t differ that much from his film music. Restrain in a minimum, if you will.

All these works have been released on CD, except The Bear, which can be found on DVD, and because this short animated film has no dialogue or sound effects, there´s really no difference as a listening experience.


Kari, thanks for sharing your thoughts on Howard Blake and his music. You've made me want to find his violin concerto in particular - comparison with Sibelius is high praise indeed!

TG

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 20, 2013 - 1:52 AM   
 By:   Kari Tuhkanen   (Member)

You´re welcome TG.

You can get it from Amazon UK or Amazon, but you should be quick, it seems to be vanishing from the market.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 20, 2013 - 4:07 AM   
 By:   bobbengan   (Member)

And to think that I only know him for AMITYVILLE 3D!

Looks like I have some catching up to do!

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 20, 2013 - 5:06 AM   
 By:   Kari Tuhkanen   (Member)

You sure do, amigo.smile

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 20, 2013 - 7:07 AM   
 By:   Kev McGann   (Member)

Yes, thanks indeed Kari for your thoughts and opinions above. Some interesting titles that sound well worth discovering (and thanks to spotify and youtube, they can be taken for a test-drive too!)
I own 3 CD's by Howard Blake,
The Snowman (grabbed for the princely sum of ONE PEE from amazon, plus P&P of course).
Flash Gordon + Amityville 3 (I love the FG stuff but never quite got into Amityville 3).
The Duellists + Riddle Of The Sands (guilty admission time...I bought it in a sale somewhere, sometime ago and have only played it once and then it got shelved, obviously another package arrived with new stuff in and it got forgotten about. your thread has just made me dig it back out and put it on my 'to listen to' pile, so thanks for that smile

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 20, 2013 - 9:15 AM   
 By:   Kari Tuhkanen   (Member)

You´re welcome too Kev.

You really should listen The Riddle of the Sands (which you confessed having), just to compare it to similarly warm sounding British scores of Scott´s, and to learn more about another master somewhat overlooked. Those atmospheric strings; his trademark almost.
The difference in Riddle is the use of the choir, which Blake handles masterfully, evoking the sea and the mystery. Writing for choir is something that Blake prefers more than Scott.

Chop-chop! smile

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 20, 2013 - 9:44 AM   
 By:   Timmer   (Member)

I can only double the recommendation on Riddle of The Sands, a wonderful score.

Kari, thanks for the heads-up on CONQUEST OF SPACE, I've not heard it but it's available on Spotify and I'm about to go listen.

Cheers.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 20, 2013 - 9:52 AM   
 By:   Kari Tuhkanen   (Member)

You´re welcome Timmer, and enjoy! (And play it loud!)

By the way, I see you´re from Bristol. A certain favorite composer of mine hails from there. Ever stumbled upon the man?

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 20, 2013 - 12:25 PM   
 By:   Timmer   (Member)

John Scott!? No, unfortunately not.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 20, 2013 - 12:26 PM   
 By:   Timmer   (Member)



p.s. LOVED Conquest big grin

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 20, 2013 - 1:57 PM   
 By:   Kev McGann   (Member)

Completely unrelated to his music (I know not everyone has to be the modest nice guy) but my personal opinion
of Mr Blake dropped when I read those disparaging remarks he made about Basil Poledouris and his
Robocop score (which he conducted due to union rules). Most unprofessional, I thought.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 20, 2013 - 6:33 PM   
 By:   Timmer   (Member)

Completely unrelated to his music (I know not everyone has to be the modest nice guy) but my personal opinion
of Mr Blake dropped when I read those disparaging remarks he made about Basil Poledouris and his
Robocop score (which he conducted due to union rules). Most unprofessional, I thought.


I remember that and I agree that it was unprofessional. I've heard many disparaging remarks by various composers towards their fellow professionals but it's never made me like their music any less, in hindsight I'm sure many of them regret certain comments.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 21, 2013 - 2:53 AM   
 By:   Kari Tuhkanen   (Member)

Completely unrelated to his music (I know not everyone has to be the modest nice guy) but my personal opinion
of Mr Blake dropped when I read those disparaging remarks he made about Basil Poledouris and his
Robocop score (which he conducted due to union rules). Most unprofessional, I thought.


I remember that and I agree that it was unprofessional. I've heard many disparaging remarks by various composers towards their fellow professionals but it's never made me like their music any less, in hindsight I'm sure many of them regret certain comments.


I haven´t heard what Blake said.
But generally speaking, composers are just people; most are more careful what they say. Although Herrmann didn´t have that problem, did he? And his music is still OK. wink

 
 Posted:   Jul 21, 2013 - 1:31 PM   
 By:   YOR The Hunter From The Future   (Member)

YOR Love his "Duelists", "Riddle on the Sands" and "Flash Gordon".

Very nice!

But what Blake said about Poledouris? YOR does know.

 
 Posted:   Jul 21, 2013 - 1:50 PM   
 By:   Tom Guernsey   (Member)

I just watned to add in my appreciation for his Piano Concerto which I only acquired a couple of months ago and absolutely love. The other works on that disc are also terrific, particularly the Toccata for Orchestra. I have the Violin Concerto on order and just waiting for it to arrive; based on the comments in this thread I think I'm in for a treat!

Strange to read about Blake making disparaging comments, based on the things I've read, he strikes me as a total gentleman. The interview at MusicWeb (Classical Review Site) is delightful and Blake comes across rather well. The comments about Basil seem somewhat regretful although I can imagine Robocop not exactly being Blake's cup of tea!

Shame there's not more of his music available, you'd think with the success of the Snowman etc. there'd be more out there. You'd think an enterprising classical label like Naxos would cover more of his works.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 21, 2013 - 4:02 PM   
 By:   Kari Tuhkanen   (Member)

Naxos has recorded some of his chamber music (and Meridian), which of course is wonderful (Pennillion, Flute Quintet, The Snowman Suite for string quartet, Piano Quartet, Violin Sonata etc.). You could also try his Lifecycle, which compiles his solo piano music over the years; there are absolute gems among the pieces. But more of his classical works would indeed be welcome.

And yes, he strikes me as a total gentleman as well.

By the way, great to hear from fellow Murray Gold fan.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 21, 2013 - 5:12 PM   
 By:   Kari Tuhkanen   (Member)

YOR Love his "Duelists", "Riddle on the Sands" and "Flash Gordon".

Very nice!

But what Blake said about Poledouris? YOR does know.


I advice Yor to go and listen The Conquest of Space, if he already hasn´t. It´s positively dazzling work, something to listen to, while enjoying dinosaur blood. But don´t choke on it, it´s that good!

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 22, 2013 - 3:21 AM   
 By:   paulhickling   (Member)

The Snowman is a classic of course, but I was a bit disappointed with The Avengers cd Silva Screen did. Bought it straight away, but it didn't live up to expectations, after Laurie Johnson's more tuneful approach. Perhaps I should give it another go.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 22, 2013 - 4:16 AM   
 By:   Kari Tuhkanen   (Member)

The Avengers is a CD of Blake´s I don´t own, not that much interested, I´m afraid. His classical, orchestral music is however a must, especially his concertos.

 
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