Gramophone Magazine CD Review

Charlotte’s NMC Debut Disc is reviewed by Richard Whitehouse in Gramophone Magazine
January 2015

She may only have been composing in earnest for a decade but Charlotte Bray (b1982) is now at the forefront of younger British composers. The works on this ‘portrait’ disc range across three years, beginning with the powerful concertante writing of Caught in Treetops – inspired by poems of Rossetti and Lorca, and beginning with a tensile cadenza which duly casts its aura over the respectively capricious and meditative movements. No less cohesive, Replay juxtaposes three contrasted musical types in a two-stage intensification, climaxing in an inward piano solo that underlines the essential unpredictability of a methodical process.

Of the two vocal works, Yellow Leaves sets Shakespeare-inspired haikus by Caroline Thomas which afford much dextrous word-setting, while Fire Burning in Snow sets poems by Nicki Jackowska whose focusing on lost love elicits a fervent response and the most tenuous of emotional resolutions. With its basis in the dream-spirits of Greek mythology, Oneiroi finds the composer equally at home with the solo piano medium as fleeting motifs disperse then reassemble to yield music of unexpected emotional breadth. Conversely, At the Speed of Stillness unfolds over an expansive orchestral canvas – the paradox of motion within stasis (whether in the written word or in physical power-lines) underlying a piece whose highly diverse textures outline an expressive progression left tantalisingly in abeyance at the close.

There is little doubt as to the commitment of these performances (not least the vocal pieces), while the annotations are highly informative. Bray has several high-profile commissions in the pipeline, ensuring that her future development can only be followed with the greatest interest.