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Richard Phillips at the Warwick and Leamington Festival asked me if I would like to compose a work for soprano and 8 cellos, the combination used very memorably by Villa-Lobos in his Bachianas Brazileiras no.5. I began to think and dream about the sound of the grouping, which itself seemed to conjure up the world of dreams-cellos effortlessly evoking the surreal landscape of the unconscious, through which a woman walks, singing wordlessly with closed eyes like a painting by Fuseli or Delvaux.
As it begins she lies in a deep untroubled sleep (Tranquillo). Images of childhood (Allegretto) give way to memories of a great occasion -perhaps a marriage? (Maestoso). A crazily-animated helter-skelter of notes suggests laughter and gaiety, yet with fears and dangers (Vivace). There is a memory of tragic , yearning love (Adagio) but the memory is broken by nightmare images of vengeance and death (Allegro Furioso). There is a waking moment, then return and sleep (Tranquillo).
|7th September 2017||Howard Blake, composer/pianist/conductor with Benedict Kloeckner (cello), Nicolas D'Autricourt (violin) and Sophie Witte (soprano), The Cadogan Hall,Chelsea,London, September 7th. 2017, 7.30pm
HOWARD BLAKE CONDUCTS AN EVENING OF HIS MUSIC
with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and soloists
at The Cadogan Hall
September 7th 2017 at 7.30pm
SLEEPWALKING opus 505 for soprano vocalise and full string orchestra
Solo soprano: Sophie Witte.
Tranquillo - Allegretto - Maestoso- Vivace – Adagio – Allegro Furioso – Tranquillo
CONCERTO FOR PIANO AND ORCHESTRA opus 412
Solo piano: Sasha Grynyuk
Tranquillo, Allegro con brio - Andante espressivo - Vivace
DIVERSIONS FOR CELLO AND ORCHESTRA, opus 337
Solo cello; Benedict Kloeckner 23 minutes
Prelude; Scherzo; March; Waltz; Aria; Serenade; Sarabande & Cadenza; Finale
ELEGIA STRAVAGANTE (DUO CONCERTANTE), for violin, cello and orchestra premiere performance 16 minutes
Solo Violin: Nicolas Dautricourt , Solo Cello: Benedict Kloeckner
Orchestration: 1 Flute, 1 Oboe, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 1 percussion (cymbals and tam-tam) and strings
Andante (rapsodico) - Scherzo malizioso - Tragico - Grave, molto espressivo –Allegro furioso - Giojoso, estatico - Andante, come prima
possible postlude: 'WALKING IN THE AIR'
'...most exciting of all a new composition by Howard Blake, receiving its first performance. Sleepwalking, a vocalise for solo soprano and eight cellos, describes in its seven continuous movements a world of dreams in which a woman moves from deep sleep, depicted by an eerie, unearthly sound created through the use of harmonics, throuh a series of episodes, half-forgotten memories and a brief wakefulness, returning at last in a final movement to sleep. The 12-minute work is technically demanding and Blake uses to wonderful effect the dark rich sonority of the ensemble to suggest night and the woman's hazy dreams.
Red Barn Cellos produced ensemble playing of a very high order and Mary Nelson's ability and charm enlightened both the Villa-Lobos (Bachianas Brazileiras No.5) and Blake's marvellous and evocative work.'
John Bradshaw, The Birmingham Post, 14/7/1998