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The young British composer Charlotte Bray’s music is exhilarating, vivid, and richly expressive with lyrical intensity. She draws inspiration from her surroundings, including human encounters and political events. Poetry, visual art, and nature also serve as impulses for her creative work.
Charlotte Bray studied with Mark-Anthony Turnage at the Royal College of Music after taking composition classes with Joe Cutler at Birmingham College of Music, where she had initially enrolled as a cellist. She also learned her compositional craft in masterclasses with Oliver Knussen, Magnus Lindberg, and Augusta Read-Thomas, among others.
She now works with orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Scottish and BBC Symphony Orchestras, and with ensembles such as London Sinfonietta, Britten Sinfonia and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. Renowned conductors have performed her work including Sir Mark Elder, Oliver Knussen, Sakari Oramo, Daniel Harding and Jessica Cottis. Her compositions have been performed at the BBC Proms and at festivals in Aldeburgh, Tanglewood, Aix-en-Provence, and Verbier.
The two previous seasons marked a very productive phase for Charlotte Bray and saw several world premieres: Red Swans Floating, with notabu.ensemble and Spectra Ensemble at Tonhalle Düsseldorf (June 2019); Bring Me All Your Dreams, a solo piece for Pierre-Laurent Aimard at Aldeburgh Festival (June 2019); and the triple concerto Germinate, with the Sitkovetsky Trio and the Philharmonia Orchestra under Pierre-André Valade (May 2019). Reflections in Time was premiered by the London Sinfonietta in May 2018, Mid-Oceaned (for viola and cello) by Ralf Ehlers and Lucas Fels of the Arditti Quartet, also in May 2018, and the viola solo In Black Light was written for Tabea Zimmerman and premiered at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in July of that same year.
Charlotte Bray’s second recording, a disc of chamber works released in October 2018 on the Richard Thomas Classical label, was recorded at the Sendesaal in Bremen, Germany, featuring the Amaryllis Quartet, the Mariani Piano Quartet, and the pianist Huw Watkins, with support from the PRS Foundation’s Composer Fund. Her debut recording, At the Speed of Stillness, was released on NMC Records in October 2014. Her work is also featured in several other recordings, including Tecchlers Cello by Guy Johnston (Kings College Cambridge, 2017), Oberon Celebrates Shakespeare by the Oberon Trio (Avi-music and SWR, 2016) and Upheld by Stillness by the choral ensemble Ora (Harmonia Mundi, 2016).
Charlotte Bray has been honoured and recognized with numerous scholarships and awards. She received the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize (2010), the Lili Boulanger Memorial Fund Prize, and the Critics' Circle Award (both 2014). She has been a Composer-in-Residence at the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the Oxford Song Festival, the Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival, the MacDowell Colony, the Liguria Study Center, and Aldeburgh Music. In the winter semester 2016/17 she was guest professor at the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya in Barcelona.
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A solo cello – Natalie Clein, with powerful, eloquent and full-blooded tone – is offset by a string orchestra that interacts with the solo line in discussions plangent with expression and spangled with pizzicato; much of the piece is wrought around soaring cello lines that, suitably enough, rise.
The Arts Desk, Jessica Duchen, 16/12/2019 on the world premiere of "The Certainty of Tides"
Above all, Bray’s writing for strings is architectural, evoking a structure far larger than the instrumental forces for which she has chosen to write. She is a minimalist in her materials if not in her devices, and on this album, has proven her own mastery of limited musical forces. I am particularly excited to hear more of her writing for solo instruments. I feel that in that regard she has only begun to show us what she can do.
I CARE IF YOU LISTEN, Kathleen McGowan, 17/04/2019 on her CD "Chamber and Solo Works"
Its opening set out a chill aural landscape, with Bray’s attention to effects – tremolando, pizzicato and wood of bow on strings – making the ear focus on detail and the way sounds hovered in clear air. (…) Bray’s balancing of restraint with sharply rhythmic impetus had its own arresting character. (…) [T]his was a piece which stirred conscience and senses together. It will sit well in the piano quartet repertoire (…).
The Guardian, Rian Evans, 20/03/2017 on the world premiere of "Zustände"
The centrepiece was Charlotte Bray’s cello concerto, Falling in the Fire, a BBC commission world premiere with Guy Johnston as soloist. The bombing last year  of ancient temples in Palmyra, Syria, was Bray’s starting point. A menacing belch of brass, dominated by trombones and tuba, launches the work with a jagged, rat-a-tat triplet fanfare out of which the solo cello emerges in lonely lament. Batterings of high woodwind, spiky and insistent, alternate with episodes of almost numb fragility. (…) Some of Bray’s delicate yet astringent chamber music was performed by the Albany Trio in a Proms Extra event. This British, Berlin-based composer, still in her early 30s, now has a growing catalogue and an assured and independent artistic voice.
The Guardian, Fiona Maddocks, 21/08/2016
Propelled by outrage at the atrocities visited upon Syria by Isis, Bray has responded with music that is defiantly exquisite as well as stark, for example, with the high-ringing tinnitus that follows a bomb explosion. Surging with energy, her colouristic writing was acutely felt by both the orchestra and brilliant soloist Guy Johnston.
The Independent, Steph Power, 16/08/2016 on the world premiere of "Falling in the Fire"
Scored for large orchestra, including a tuba and three percussion players, the work oscillates between images of a damaged outer world and a traumatised inner world. It opens with explosive force – agitated strings matched by sharp punctuation from brass and percussion – until the solo cello, played very eloquently here by Guy Johnston, emerges gradually from the aural chaos. What I found especially remarkable were the many instances of the composer’s brilliant ear for orchestration and her power to connect instantly with an audience. Three examples may suffice. After the dust settles in the opening section, the writing for wind mimics the sound of scores of frightened animals rushing headless in all directions. The repeated use of tremolando strings conveys a sense of flux and the loss of stability. And as the work draws to a close, a haunting quality is created by shimmering strings set against a sustained piccolo with an agitated cello line. Picasso was able to move millions with his representation of Guernica; modern music can give powerful expression to the anguish caused by inhumanity.
bachtrack.com, Alexander Hall, 15/08/2016
She may only have been composing in earnest for a decade but Charlotte Bray (b.1982) is now at the forefront of younger British composers. … powerful concertante writing of Caught in Treetops … beginning with a tensile cadenza which duly casts its aura over the respectively capricious and meditative movements. … 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 … highly diverse textures outline an expressive progression left tantalisingly in abeyance at the close.
Gramophone Magazine, Richard Whitehouse, January 2015 on her debut CD "At the Speed of Stillness"
Charlotte Bray’s powerfully expectant At the Speed of Stillness (2012), conducted by Ms. Canellakis, managed the difficult feat of evoking ceaseless motion without feeling driven: It gave a sense of pulsating in place.”
The New York Times, Zachary Woolfe, 22/07/2014
... the composer had a feeling for setting words… skilfully told in digestible, darkly dappled, sometimes waltz-inflected music…
The Times, Geoff Brown, 07/08/2012 on "Making Arrangements"
… all the important Bs: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Britten, plus another: Charlotte Bray.
… Bray’s ten-minute dazzler for piano, violin, viola and cello. … my ears were busy with interlocked yearning phrases or rhythmic patterns both stabbing and chunky – material presented, inspected, the reconfigured with a bright imagination and, even better, a keen urge to communicate. It was all vivid and exhilarating…
The Times, Geoff Brown, 04/07/2011 on "Replay"
Charlotte Bray: Zustände; Beyond; Invisible Cities; On the Other Shore; The Sun was Chasing Venus
Mariani Klavierquartett; Amaryllis Quartett; Huw Watkins, piano
Nimbus Records, NI6371, 2018
Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No. 2 · Bray: That Crazed Smile · Beethoven: Piano Trio No. 5 · Mendelssohn / Hosseini: A Midsummer Night's Dream
CAvi, 5378473, 2016
Works by Jonathan Dove, Helen Grime, Richard Rodney Bennett, Michael Tippett, John Tavener, Judith Weir, Charlotte Bray, Anthony Powers und Joseph Phibbs
James Turnbull, oboe; Libby Burgess, piano; Ensemble Perpetuo
Champs Hill Records, CHRCD099, 2016
Works by Philippe de Monte, William Byrd, Roxanna Panufnik, Francis Pott, Alexander L'Estrange, Owain Park, Charlotte Bray, William Byrd, Roderick Williams
Harmonia Mundi, HMW906102, 2016
Works by Robert Myers, Malte Giesen, Charlotte Bray, Thilo Schaller, Roderik de Man
Sirocco Saxophone Quartet
Encora, 8470253, 2015
Charlotte Bray: Fire Burning in Snow; Oneiroi, Replay; Yellow Leaves; Caught in Treetops
Claire Booth, soprano; Lucy Schaufer, mezzo-soprano; Alexandra Wood, violin; Andrew Matthews-Owen, piano; Huw Watkins, piano; Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; Aldeburgh World Orchestra; Sir Mark Elder, conductor; Oliver Knussen, conductor
NMC Records, 8304740, 2014
Works by Nicholas Maw, Joseph Atkins, Peter Racine Fricker, Matthew Taylor, Bayan Northcott, Charlotte Bray, John McCabe
Antonis Hatzinikolaou, guitar
NMC Records, 3449551, 2013
Young British composer Charlotte Bray was propelled to success in her home country whilst still in her 20s. After receiving her first BBC Proms commission in 2012, the orchestral work At the Speed of Stillness, she was tipped as one of the most influential young Londoners in the Evening Standard and described as at the “forefront of younger British composers” by Gramophone magazine....
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