CHARLOTTE BRAY (b.1982): At the Speed of Stillness (Aldeburgh World Orchestra; Mark Elder), Fire Burning in Snow for Mezzo-Soprano and Ensemble, Replay for Piano and Ensemble, Caught in Treetops for Violin and Ensemble (Lucy Shaufer [mezzo], Huw Watkins [piano], Alexandra Wood [violin], Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; Oliver Knussen [Caught]), Oneiroi for Piano (Watkins), Songs from Yellow Leaves for Soprano and Piano (Claire Booth [soprano], Andrew Matthew-Owens [piano]).
Catalogue Number: 02Q077
Description: At the Speed of Stillness, a 2012 BBC Proms commission, is effectively an orchestral tone poem taking as its theme the paradoxical notion, explored in a surrealist poem by Dora Maar, of something moving so fast as to appear still. The piece has a restless energy throughout, here expressed through a persistent rhythmic drive, strongly reminiscent of Mark-Anthony Turnage, with whom she studied. This seems not to be entirely typical of the composer, though the fleet, effervescent harmony, tonality-based though not really tonal, certainly is. Caught in Treetops, also takes inspiration from poetry; two contrasting views of lunar symbolism by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Lorca, both mysterious, the first whimsical, the second lonely and desolate. Beginning with an extended virtuosic cadenza, the work's linked movements explore the atmosphere of the poems in contrasting, resonant eloquent narrative. Nocturnal imagery is also present in the evocative piano work, its subject the mythology of dreams, and explicitly or less so, the vivid evocations of lost love that pervade the poems of Fire Burning in Snow. Agile, shadowy mobility characterises the piano quartet Replay, with its persistent cellular structure anticipating the processes of the orchestral piece written two years later. Texts included.