Michael White’s classical news: Howard Blake; Coronation concert; Kaija Saariaho; Jennifer Higdon; Scriabin; Salon Music

A coronation celebration with The Royal Choral Society at the Royal Albert Hall, May 7

MOST “serious” composers I know can only dream of writing something that will make them rich. But the composer Howard Blake struck gold back in the 1980s with his music for The Snowman and its hit song Walking in the Air which plays relentlessly at Christmas. Royalties roll in. But as a consequence the world associates him with that single, easy-listening piece, and his impressive catalogue of more substantial works goes virtually ignored.
This week though, at St John’s Smith Square, he celebrates a milestone birthday with a concert of his instrumental chamber music – not a piping boy’s voice to be heard. Discover Howard Blake’s hidden life on May 4.

ONE of Howard’s many overlooked works was a piano concerto for Princess Diana (who couldn’t play it but no matter), and royal music is inevitably on the agenda this week with the coronation. Those of us whose invitations to the Abbey failed to surface will be watching on TV. But for a more immediate experience, the LPO have a Festival Hall concert on May 6 that resurrects Michael Tippett’s Suite for the Birthday of Prince Charles, a sparkling piece commissioned by the BBC in 1948 (

FOR more mainstream tastes, the Royal Choral Society have a grand coronation bash on May 7 at the Albert Hall: traditional and doubtless stirring (

THE Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho has had an opera running recently at Covent Garden and is one of the more alluring figures in contemporary music, so I recommend the “total immersion” day running at the Barbican on May 7 to showcase her wider output (

ANOTHER contemporary composer I recommend is the American Jennifer Higdon whose masterpiece Blue Cathedral – a radiantly uplifting and accessible orchestral score once heard never forgotten – gets a Royal Festival Hall performance from the RPO on May 10.

THERE are reasons why her Cathedral is Blue, and they don’t necessarily involve synaesthesia: the connection between sound and colour. But the music of Scriabin does. And his 5th Symphony, Prometheus – which calls for what he called a “colour organ” to bathe the auditorium in appropriate hues – gets a rare performance as the composer intended, with light show, at the Festival Hall on May 11. An all-round sensory experience, though don’t expect to look good in a green haze.

CONCERT venues come and go over time, and a fashionable London example was the Hanover Square Rooms which flourished for a century before closure in 1874. It’s a trek from where they were to Highgate, but these long-vanished Rooms are recalled on May 7 in a concert that’s part of the enterprising Salon Music series at the N6 home of Michelle Berriedale Johnson. Given by the all-female Hanover Square Quartet – whose name says all – it features music that audiences would have heard in the Rooms in the mid-19th century, including works by Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn. No light shows sadly, but the compensation of an intimate and welcoming performance space in Highgate Village. Details:

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