Home listening - Charlotte Bray, Michael Berkeley and BBC Sounds

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The Guardian

Be transported to the frozen north by Bray, or into Rilke’s verse by Berkeley, while being sized up by the BBC’s new app…

• Albums by living composers sell in small numbers but they matter, offering a vital chance to get to know works played too infrequently in the concert hall. NMC, a rich and dedicated repository, is a first port of call, but it’s not the only label to support the new. I heard a performance at London’s Purcell Room last month of Zustände (2016), a piano quartet by British-born, Berlin-based Charlotte Bray (b1982), and was intrigued by its aural depictions of icebergs encountered by Bray on a trip to Greenland: not only cracking, splintering, melting sounds but less literal intimations of a not-quite silent, frozen landscape. It’s a magical piece, which I’m glad to say is available on an absorbing new CD of Bray’s Chamber and Solo Works on Nimbus Alliance (performers include Huw Watkins, piano, and the Mariani Piano Quartet).

Winter Fragments is both the title and the central work on a Resonus CD of eclectic chamber music by Michael Berkeley (b1948). Stylistically ranging from the plainchant-inspired Clarinet Quintet (1983) to the sensuous and Satie-like Seven (2007), to the jostling intensity of Catch Me If You Can (1994), it shows Berkeley at his exploratory and individualistic best, free to follow his instinct, tonal or expressionistic. The Berkeley Ensemble, conducted by Dominic Grier and dedicated to music of the 20th and 21st centuries, provides endlessly responsive playing, whether alone or as part of the Winter Fragments song cycle, sung by Fleur Barron, who is also exceptional in the Sonnet for Orpheus (from Three Rilke Sonnets).

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Sun Nov 18 08:30:54 CET 2018