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Brighton Year-Round 2019

Alan Parmenter and Howard Blake Violin and Piano Recital

Alan Parmenter and Howard Blake

Genre: Live Music, Music

Venue: Chapel Royal, North Road, Brighton


Low Down

Alan Parmenter and Howard Blake gave a violin and piano recital of Blake’s compositions: The Penillion Op 586 from 1975 revised 2005, the Solo Guitar Prelude Sarabande and Gigue Op 477 from January 1995 and the Violin Sonata Op 571 (1973/2007).


Violinist Alan Parmenter joins composer and pianist Howard Blake for a very special recital.

Blake we know as the composer of The Snowman, as well as 204 commercial ads including reintroducing many classical music hits – the ‘Bell Song’ duet from Delibes’ Lakmé has worked for BA over 30 even 40 years.

Still his opus numbers total well over 600. Two compositions he returned to in the mid-noughties date originally from the 1970s but they’ve been overhauled. You can find them with his Piano Quintet on an acclaimed Naxos disc.

First was the Penillion Op 571 for Violin and Piano from 1975 revised 2005. Parmenter has a full but penetrating tone, and with the composer at the piano providing a sterling through-line this was always gong to be authoritative. It’s a work with the Theme at the opening and conclusion with six variations in between. It’s memorable, a mix of jaunty wistfulness and jazzy syncopations, elements of those commercial imprints Blake himself claims.

The melodic profile is keen, with an upward-moving theme worked though various tempi like moderato vivo, L’istesso tempo (same as before), Meno mosso, Allegro, Lento, Moderato Blake’s long-breathed melodies jaunt with sudden jagged upswings though generally smoothly shifting harmonies, with a popular melodic idiom almost on the breath of the work, but with its own personal integrity, somewhere where the highest kind of film music is distilled into utterly memorable chamber works like this one.

We then heard a masterwork, played by Paul Gregory on guitar. This is the Prelude Sarabande and Gigue Op 477, a typical guitar triptych. It’s a work from January 1995, again not only memorable but with its teeming invention in the quiet gentle Prelude, the Sarabande slipping quietly into an earworm and then a Gigue as memorable and fine as one of the Five Preludes of Villa-Lobos with its anticipated wrong-footing chords (like Beethoven’s Violin Sonata Op 12/3 with the violin and piano playing catch-up) this characterful works concluded. It really should be standard repertoire It’s the most distinct piece for guitar since Walton’s Five Pieces and Richard Rodney Bennett’s. Gregory is known as a sovereign interpreter, and here he gathered in the work’s expressive range, easy to bloom in this acoustic.

The Violin Sonata Op 586 from 1973 revised 2007 shares similar material with the slightly earlier Penillion opens with an Allegro reminding us of the work we heard at the opening. It’s fast-paced but not aggressive, sashaying in an out of a gently jazzy theme drawn on an Alberti bass.

The Lento in John Ireland’s mildly sinewy vein rippling to a kind of peace, perhaps gives no hint of the fiercer Presto to come, full of explosive lyric force. There’s a snap and ferocity at the end you’d not predict. Ireland yes but really Blake sounds only like himself. Parmenter summons piercing stratospheric sonance allied to a truly digging-out of those rhythmic figures, even more extreme than I’ve heard anywhere else. Blake throughout enthuses in the snappiness of his own part-writing,

A masterly composer whose works we all know more than we think, beyond The Snowman, this was treasurable.