“Niobe is a rich score full of dramatic incident, a highly potent performance of a compelling concerto. The soloist’s relationship with the orchestra is inspired by the dramatic unfolding of the myth in a sensuous and colourful score.” BBC Radio 3
“Richard Blackford’s latest work, Kalon (a Greek word meaning physical and spiritual beauty), reminds us that his is one of the liveliest musical minds around. Scored for a string quartet surrounded by string orchestra, Blackford’s style, though, is rooted in modality and tonality, so it’s fascinating to see how skilfully he reconciles these conflicting metrical materials within a unified harmonic framework. That’s not the only interest, though. The outer movements are generally bright and breezy, with the first also evoking Cretan folk music, but the anguished middle movement is much darker. Here the composer says he was inspired by the story of Jewish musicians playing string quartets in the Nazi concentration camps. His music imagines someone going to their death with those sounds in their ears. There’s a transcendentally beautiful quotation from Beethoven’s Op 130 quartet halfway through. Theodor Adorno famously declared that it was barbaric to write poetry after Auschwitz, and it’s generally true that poets and composers should think hard before making reference to those terrible events. Yet Blackford’s new work strikes me as emotionally sincere and intellectually intriguing. I hope it is played often.” Richard Morrison, The Times ★★★★☆ Concert review: BBC NOW, Martin Brabbins, Cheltenham Festival
In December 2020 Richard Blackford received the Ivor Novello Composer Award for Pietà, his dramatic, large scale choral work setting the Stabat Mater alongside texts by the Soviet poet Anna Akhmatova.
'The music comes from the heart with integrity, and a technical assurance...There is a crying need for this kind of music.' The Independent on Sunday
“Blackford describes Blewbury Air as a love-song to the village in Oxfordshire where he lives. The work is explicitly descriptive and each movement has an evocative title, 'By the water's edge', 'Incantation with bells', and 'The wind in the branches', and they reflect Blackford's intention to depict the lake near his house which teems with wildlife. Blackford has a significant catalogue of film, TV and theatre work, but more recently has concentrated on concert music, creating a distinctive voice with remarkable success. This new piece is tonal, yet full of interest and finely constructive. Its length makes it a prime candidate for recitals. The recording and printed music are available Nimbus.” Planet Hugill