D Blake

WORKS: Violin Concerto; In Praise of Krishna
PERFORMER: Teresa Cahill (soprano), Iona Brown (violin); Philharmonia Orchestra/Norman del Mar; Northern Sinfonia/David Blake
CATALOGUE NO: D 129 Reissue (1979
David Blake’s most famous teacher was the East German Hanns Eisler – former pupil of Schoenberg and one of the few 20th-century composers who has made a lastingly successful engagement with Communism. Blake also took Schoenberg as his starting point, but by the time he came to write In Praise of Krishna and the Violin Concerto in the 1970s, Schoenbergian rigour seemed to have faded along with agitprop politics. Here we find something more like a gentler, less tortured version of Alban Berg. The opening movement of the Concerto and the closing pages


of In Praise of Krishna,/i> have a melancholy voluptuousness that can be very seductive. The melodies can be angular, the harmonies astringent, but they have a habit of melting into old-fashioned tonal expressiveness – the effect achieved with great skill and without any sense of cliché. This is the best of Blake: the post-modernist invocations of Sarasate and Verdi – carefully framed within a spiky Scherzo – in the Violin Concerto’s second movement are less convincing. But with fine performances from Iona Brown in the Concerto and Teresa Cahill in In Praise of Krishna, this is well worth having, and it may surprise 20th century British music lovers who think the post-Schoenbergian ’70s young moderns have nothing to offer them. Stephen Johnson