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The composer Charlotte Bray has emerged as one of the most distinctive and outstanding talents of her generation. With uninhibited ambition and a desire to communicate, her music is exhilarating, inherently vivid, and richly expressive with lyrical intensity. She draws inspiration from the world around her – poetry, art, nature, human relationships and political events can provide an impulse for her creative work.
Charlotte Bray studied under Mark Anthony Turnage at the Royal College of Music and Joe Cutler at the Birmingham Conservatoire. She participated in the Britten-Pears Contemporary Composition Course with Oliver Knussen, Colin Matthews and Magnus Lindberg, and at the Tanglewood Music Centre with John Harbison, Michael Gandolfi, Shulamit Ran and Augusta Read-Thomas.
She has composed for numerous ensembles and orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, CBSO Youth Orchestra, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Britten Sinfonia, Dover Quartet, Oberon Trio, Fidelio Trio and Albany Piano Trio. She has written for some of the world’s leading musicians, including Claire Booth, Roderick Williams, Jennifer Pike, Lawrence Power and Huw Watkins. Her work has been featured at the BBC Proms, Aldeburgh, Cheltenham, Tanglewood, Savannah, Aix-en-Provence, Festspiele Europäische Wochen Passau, Verbier and the Copenhagen Summer Festival. Several renowned conductors have performed her work, including Sir Mark Elder, Oliver Knussen, Sakari Oramo, Daniel Harding, Jac van Steen and Jessica Cottis.
As well as the highly successful world premiere of “Stone Dancer” by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Oliver Knussen at the Aldeburgh Music Festival 2016, the orchestra also gave the world premiere of a second orchestral work at the BBC Proms in August 2016 under conductor Sakari Oramo. “Falling in the Fire”, a cello concerto written for Guy Johnston, is Charlotte Bray’s first politically motivated work. It reflects her “moral outrage” at the destruction of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria last summer by IS, and the humanitarian catastrophe that has come about through war and conflict in the country.
“At the Speed of Stillness” for orchestra has been selected for the World New Music Days in Vancouver; its Canadian premiere will be given in November 2017 by the Vancouver Symhony Orchestra under its Music Director Bramwell Tovey. In May 2018, the London Sinfonietta will premiere a new piece for ensemble, and Ralf Ehlers and Lucas Fels from the Arditti Quartet will perform a new duo for viola and cello. This will be followed by a new work written for violist Tabea Zimmermann in July, commissioned by the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence.
In recognition of her achievements and growing reputation, Charlotte was awarded the 2010 Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize and appointed as apprentice Composer-in-Residence with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group/Sound and Music (2009/10). She was the inaugural Composer-in-Residence at the Oxford Lieder Festival (2011) and Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival (2015). Charlotte is an Honorary member of the Birmingham Conservatoire and was named as their Alumni of the Year 2014 in the field of Excellence in Sport or the Arts. She was winner of the Lili Boulanger Prize and a Critics’ Circle Award for Exceptional Young Talent (2014). Residencies include the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire (2013 and 2015), Liguria Study Centre in Bogliasco (2013), and Aldeburgh Music (2010 and 2015). She was selected as a MacDowell Colony Norton Stevens Fellow (2015-16) and was visiting professor at the Escola Superior de Musica de Catalunya in Barcelona for the winter semester 2016/17. Her debut recording “At the Speed of Stillness” was released in October 2014 on NMC Records.
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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"
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....