David Blake was born in London and educated at Latymer Upper School, Hammersmith. He did his National Service in 1955-57, learnt Mandarin and spent one year in Hong Kong. He read a Music Tripos at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge 1957-60 where he was taught by Patrick Hadley, Peter Tranchell and Raymond Leppard. During this time his first compositions were performed and he began to conduct. He was awarded the Mendelssohn Scholarship for Composition in 1960 and went to East Berlin to study composition with Hanns Eisler as a Meisterschüler of the G.D.R. Akademie der Künste. During this time he composed the first works he acknowledges, the Variations for Piano and the String Quartet No.1.
On his return to England he worked as a schoolteacher for three years, composing the highly successful musical for schools It’s a Small War.
In 1963 he was awarded the Granada Arts Fellowship at the newly opened University of York, which in 1964 established the Department of Music, of which he, with Wilfrid Mellers and Peter Aston, was a founder member. His first important commission came in 1966, from the York Festival, for his Chamber Symphony. Subsequent commissions were for Lumina (for soloists, chorus and large orchestra to texts by Ezra Pound) for the Leeds Festival 1970, a Violin Concerto fiir the 1976 B.B.C. Proms, Toussaint, an opera in three acts, for English National Opera, first produced in 1977 (revived 1983), Rise Dove for bass and orchestra (text by Césaire) for the BBC, The Plumber’s Gift, opera in two acts, for English National Opera (first produced in 1989) and a Cello Concerto, for the BBC and the Cheltenham Festival.
David Blake was made Professor of Music at the University of York in 1976 and was Head of Music from 1980-1983.
His book “Hanns Eisler- a Miscellany”, which he compiled and edited, was published in 1995 (Gordon and Breach). His music is published by OUP, Schott, Novello and the University of York Music Press. More recent works include The Griffin’s Tale for baritone and orchestra, two operas -The Fabulous Adventures of Alexander the Great and Scoring a Century and the song cycle The Shades of Love for bass-baritone and orchestra. He retired from the University in 2001, but continues to teach and lecture as well as being executive director of the University of York Music Press.