Solo piano

PNFT

Requested by Daan Vandewalle
Bardic Edition Score BD in preparation
Published in: 
Duration: 4'00"

Première

First performance: Friday 7 July 2006; South Africa; Daan Vandewalle pianoperformance details.

Programme note

PNFT is a very short realisation of Mozart's Musikalisches Würfelspiel for Daan Vandewalle, who wanted "just a little piece". It also provided a musical link to Mozart's Fantaisie K475 which followed it in concert. The first performance was given during the 2006 New Music Indaba which had the theme 'Reimagining Mozart'.

French Suite

  1. First Dance (Non rubato; crotchet = 120)
  2. Second Dance (crotchet = 152)
African Journal No 20a
Recorded by Jill Richards on ‘Michael Blake: Complete Works for Solo Piano 1994-2004’ (MBED001)
Duration: 9'00"

Première

First performance: Saturday 26 November 1994; United Kingdom; Sally Rose pianoperformance details.

Programme note

The form of French Suite is loosely related to the Bach Suites, consisting as it does of dances in contrasting styles. But there are only two, and both owe their musical genesis to Africa rather than the Baroque. The First Dance is underpinned by a chaconne-like pattern with variations in continually changing metres, interrupted regularly by a short refrain derived from Zimbabwean mbira music. The melodic material of the variations makes reference to West African kora music. By contrast, the Second Dance juxtaposes and sometimes overlays material derived from a wide range of sources including mbira music, again) and the result is analogous to cinematic montage. The instrumental writing derives from 18th-century French harpsichord music and early 20th-century French piano music. The first performance was given by Sally Rose on 26 November 1994 to launch the 'St Luke's Concerts', Brighton.

Press

One would have loved to know what inspired him to call it French. There was certainly enough clarity in the writing to suggest Bach, who wrote half a dozen French Suites for the harpsichord. But Blake’s work also let one’s thoughts go out to West Africa… In it one finds a lot of rhythmic patterns which are developed all the time. This initially gives the work a more playful character before an aggressiveness sets in… Nearer to the end, it developed a dance-like character.
Paul Boekkooi, Cue, Grahamstown, Thursday 9 July 1998
Michael Blakes “French Suite”, zwei erstmals in Deutschland aufgeführte Tänze des in England lebenden Südafrikaners, setzt griffige afrikanische Rhythmusstrukturen und unstete Melodien zu einr leisen, wie meditativen Musik zusammen.
Armin Kaumanns, Rheinische Post, Düsseldorf, Saturday 19 May 2007

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Audio excerpt: first dance

Three Toys No 1

Requested by Daniel Matej for the 'morceaux en forme de poire' project
Originally titled ‘A Toy’
Recorded by Jill Richards on ‘Michael Blake: Complete Works for Solo Piano 1994-2004’ (MBED001)
Published in: 
Duration: 3'00"

Première

First performance: Sunday 11 June 1995; Slovakia; John Tilbury pianoperformance details.

Programme note

Three Toys No 1, which is based on a group of pitches from the opening of Satie's Trois Morceaux en Forme de Poire, was a request from Daniel Matej for the "morceaux en forme de poire" project premiered during the sixth edition of Evenings of New Music. The title refers to short pieces commonly found in collections of Elizabethan virginal music, but it could also refer to a spinning top which might have been the "pear shaped object" Satie had in mind...

Three Toys Nos 2 and 3

Originally titled ‘More Toys’
Recorded by Jill Richards on ‘Michael Blake: Complete Works for Solo Piano 1994-2004’ (MBED001)
Published in: 
Duration: 6'00"

Première

First performance: Wednesday 29 September 2004; South Africa; Mary Dullea pianoperformance details.

Programme note

Three Toys No 2 and No 3 came about because I wanted to compose different views of the "object" I had called A Toy (Three Toys No 1), and so the complete set might be an aural equivalent of viewing a piece of sculpture from three different perspectives. The changes that occur between pieces are related to pitch and mode; in every sense they could be read as a response to Satie's Trois Gymnopedies.

BWV Fragments

Recorded by Jill Richards on ‘Michael Blake: Complete Works for Solo Piano 1994-2004’ (MBED001); and by Antony Gray on ‘Bach Piano Transcriptions’ (ABC Records PLU 347534)
Published in: 
Duration: 1'00"

Première

First performance: Thursday 16 May 2002; South Africa; Jill Richards pianoperformance details.

Programme note

BWV Fragments was written on the occasion of Ishbel Sholto-Douglas' retirement from the Rhodes University Music Department. Her life-long passion for Bach's Cello Suites, which she first introduced me to when I was an undergraduate at Wits University close to three decades before, led me to use them as the source material for this little tribute. I cut and pasted, transposed and superimposed fragments, and deliberately misread clefs, but every single note came from Bach.

Nightsongs

Recorded by Jill Richards on ‘Michael Blake: Complete Works for Solo Piano 1994-2004’ (MBED001)
Published in: 
Duration: 4'00"

Première

First performance: Thursday 5 August 1999; South Africa; Michael Blake pianoperformance details.

Programme note

Nightsongs takes apart, and then puts together differently, all the Cole Porter songs I know with "night" in the title as well as the very chromatic I Concentrate on You. The music inhabits a strange, almost expressionist world, unlike anything I'd written in more than twenty years, with fragments of Porter sometimes fleetingly remembered. I started it in London in March 1997 to play on a concert tour, but only managed to reach the double barline two years later in Grahamstown.

38a Hill Street Blues

Requested by Marcel Worms for his ‘New Blues for Piano’ project
Recorded by Jill Richards on ‘Michael Blake: Complete Works for Solo Piano 1994-2004’ (MBED001)
Published in: 
Duration: 3'45"

Première

First performance: Saturday 25 March 2000; Netherlands; Marcel Worms pianoperformance details.

Press

Die program is geopen met “38A Hill Street Blues” met Max (Magda) de Vries (marimba) en Frank Mallows (vibrafoon). Die werk is oorspronklik vir klavier geskryf, maar in 2003 getranskribeer vir marimba en vibrafoon. Die kleur wat dié twee instrumente verleen, en die twee spelers se uitstekende spel, het die werk laat leef.
The programme opened with “38A Hill Street Blues” with Max (Magda) de Vries (marimba) and Frank Mallows (vibraphone). The work was originally written for piano, but transcribed for marimba and vibraphone in 2003. The colour that these two instruments contribute, and the two players outstanding performance, gave the work life.
Piet Kooij, Die Burger, September 2007
Translation: Giel Swart

Remembering Stravinsky…Morges, Autumn 2001

Dedicated to Paulette Robert
Recorded by Jill Richards on "Michael Blake: Complete Works for Solo Piano 1994-2004" (MBED001)
Bardic Edition Published by Bardic Edition in "Complete Shorter Pieces for Solo Piano" - BD 0954
Duration: 4'15"

Première

First performance: Thursday 16 May 2002; South Africa; Jill Richards pianoperformance details.

Programme note

Remembering Stravinsky…Morges, Autumn 2001 was composed in Switzerland while I was staying outside Lausanne in the town of Morges, where Stravinsky had lived from 1914 to1920, and composed L'Histoire du Soldat and Les Noces. Visiting his house (now the head office of Swatch), and looking out the windows at views he might have enjoyed, inspired me to write a memorial piece to that most resourceful of 20th century composers. I worked every morning in the tranquillity of Paulette Robert's beautiful garden and dedicated my piece to her. By a remarkable coincidence she had spent some of her childhood years in an apartment in the “Stravinsky house”.

Ruri

Unpublished
Duration: 3'30"

Première

First performance: Monday 10 September 2001; Argentina; Michael Blake pianoperformance details.

Umantindane

Unpublished
Duration: 3'00"

Première

First performance: Monday 10 September 2001; Argentina; Michael Blake pianoperformance details.
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