SLEEPWALKING (for soprano and 8 cellos) op.505 (March 1998)

A concert work in seven movements
Published by: Highbridge Music Ltd
Commissioned by: The Warwick Arts Society and West Midland Arts
Note on Lyrics: The soprano part is wordless - a vocalise
Duration: 13 mins
First Performance: Mary Nelson, John Todd and Red Barn Cellos, St Mary's Church, Warwick, 11 July 1998
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  • 1: Tranquillo
  • 2: Allegretto
  • 3: Maestoso
  • 4: Vivace
  • 5: Adagio
  • 6: Allegro Furioso
  • 7: Tranquillo


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


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



Solo piano: Sasha Grynyuk

Tranquillo, Allegro con brio - Andante espressivo - Vivace





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

Related Works

'Sleepwalking (For Soprano and Piano Quartet)' op.537 (August 2003) (Audio Sample Available)
A concert work in 7 movements re-arranged from the original for soprano and eight cellos, see opus 505
'SLEEPWALKING (for soprano vocalise, solo cello and piano)' op.599 (May 2009)
A new transcription of 'Sleepwalking' created by the composer
'Sleepwalking for solo violin and eight cellos' op.630 (September 2011)
Transcription of the concert vocalise for soprano and eight cellos
Piano trio no. 4 (An arrangement of the work originally for soprano and eight cellos)

Related Autobiography Chapters

'Sleepwalking' and the film of 'The Bear' (1998)
Piano Quintet (a Midsummer Night's Dream} (2016)

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