British composer Howard Blake seems to lead two careers, writing music for films and for the concert hall, yet this division is somewhat arbitrary because so much of his work has crossover appeal. The music for the 1982 film The Snowman, for example, has become one of Blake's most recognizable scores, and its signature song, Walking in the Air, has become a genuine hit, covered by pop and even heavy metal artists. Blake has also written evocative music for the films The Duellists and The Changeling, and their themes are included in this 2014 Decca release by pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy. In many instances, Blake composes in a relaxed contemporary classical style, as in the series of 24 piano pieces in Lifecycle, of which 10 are presented here, including the keyboard version of Walking in the Air. Blake is an unabashed tonalist with a pleasing lyrical gift that makes his music instantly accessible, though its mild harmonies and simple melodies are rarely challenging. However, the Dances for 2 pianos and the Sonata for 2 pianos show more rhythmically active music infused with jazz harmonies, and Ashkenazy's performances with his son, Vovka Ashkenazy, are easily the most entertaining selections of this disc.
Walking in the Air: The Piano Music of Howard Blake Review
by Blair Sanderson