Invisible Cities

viola and piano

“Control of material and the expressive means to which such control is put were never remotely in doubt.
Seen and Heard International
Duration 17’
Instrumentation viola, piano
First Performance 23 July 2012, L’Eglise, Verbier, Switzerland; Lawrence Power (viola), Julien Quentin (piano)
Commissioned by Verbier Festival
Recording Chamber and Solo Works (2018), RTF Classical/Nimbus more info

Winner of an Ivor Novello Award in the Solo or Duo category 2019

Charlotte has a worldwide, exclusive publishing agreement with Birdsong
Purchase Materials
Further Performances
25.6.13 Piano Salon Christophori, Berlin, Adrien Boisseau viola Julien Quentin piano German Premiere
15.7.13 Le Festival de Radio France et Montpellier, Adrien Boisseau viola Gaspard Dehaene piano
2.05.18 Sendesaal, Bremen, Germany; Barbara Buntrock viola, Huw Watkins piano
16.10.18 Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, London; Barbara Buntrock viola, Huw Watkins piano
8.02.24 St. Saviour’s Anglican Church, 701 Ward St., Nelson, Canada; Marina Thibeault viola, Janelle Fung piano
2.03.24 1385 Seymour Street, Halifax, B3H 1W8, Canada; Marina Thibeault viola, Janelle Fung piano

In his book ‘Invisible Cities’, Calvino describes one city, Venice, in many ways. The reader believes that different cities are being depicted, yet the cities still resemble one another. “The imaginable cities are assembled with a connecting thread, an inner rule, a perspective, a discourse.” This could be thought of as the essence of the musical work: one ‘city’ is described, with memories and glimpses of this original ‘place’ referred to as the piece progresses. Whilst one is led on a diverse journey, fragments of melody form a connecting thread through the score, linking movements together.

This title represents more than just the inspiration of it’s source however. Separate ideas are often presented in each part. They exist alongside and are sometimes even influenced by one another, but they are – for the most part – invisible entities, inhibiting separate worlds. These are my imagined ‘invisible cities’.

The first movement has a frenetic energy about it. Vivid and rich, the “desired city of his (Marco Polo’s) dreams, of fleeting desires”, a good place “finally reached from the wilds”. (This is Calvino’s ‘Isidora’). With a youthful vigor motives spiral around central points (a features that pervades the whole work). A subtle meditation softly conjures up mysterious and intimate memories in the second movement. Somewhat unsettling and growing in tension: a memory of something beautiful but unresolved.

Movement three opens illustrating the parts in their totally separate worlds: the viola, full-bodied and intense, while the piano is distant and detached from this reality. Dark, heavy chords resound bringing the piano closer to the world of the viola before it disappears off again. The raw energy and fire of the viola part eventually eats its ways into the piano however, before leaving the viola alone reminiscing, incredibly delicately.

With a constant thread throughout (a repeated note motive), the final movement is well anchored whist flitting between two elements: aloof and distant, where the music is less in-focus, and then it’s extreme, a rich, edgy and robust place. The two voices can clearly be heard feeding into one another now as the exchange of material between parts is at it’s height (also heard in the third movement). The ‘cities’ have become more visible to one another through the course of the piece.

The work is around 16 minutes in duration and all movements run together without a pause.

The Ivors Composer Awards 2019 at British Museum, London – Charlotte Bray, winner of Solo or Duo on Wednesday, 4 December 2019.
Photo by Mark Allan