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.
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.
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.
(CD cover shows the Victoria Town Hall, Leeds)