Charlotte Bray on works for piano
Inspiration from dreaming and children link almost all of the works I’ve written for solo piano.
The latest piece, Bring Me All Your Dreams was commissioned by Aldeburgh Festival for Pierre- Laurent Aimard, and premiered at Aldeburgh Festival on 10th June 2019. The piece is written in memory of Oliver Knussen and for my son Caio, who entered the world just a few months after Olly suddenly, sadly and unexpectedly made his exit. To write something as perfect, precise, beautiful and enchanted as everything Olly wrote is most likely to be a lifelong quest for me. The lessons he so generously, openly and readily provided me will remain close to my heart as will the conviction he instilled in me as a composer.
The piece seeks to mimic the imaginings within the dream of a newborn child. The music floats and dances with tiny flutters and fleeting smiles, moving rapidly through various states of a luminous, secret world. The title Bring Me All Your Dreams is taken from the poem, The Dream Keeper, by Langston Hughes. The ‘heart melodies’ wrapped ‘in a blue cloud-cloth, away from the too-rough fingers of the world’ describe exactly the newborn’s dreaming I write about- innocent, inventive, playful and curious. Echoes of Olly’s Ophelia’s Last Dance pervade the work, hauntingly yet affectionately.
Written in 2013 and commissioned by the Festspiele Europäische Wochen Passau, Oneiroi was also dedicated to Oliver Knussen, since his works (and that of Hans Werner Henze) inspired the piece. A dialogue of thoughts flow throughout- an incredibly private inner space, frequently returning to melodies, as if flashes of dream recur. Sometimes dark, isolated, and pensive, and at other times delicate, lyrical, and warmer in character, the music is in constant flux between a clear and a blurred state- one questions whether it is a dream or reality.
In Greek mythology, dreams are personified by dark-winged spirits called Oneiroi. They emerge at night from their cavernous home in Erebos, the land of eternal darkness beyond the rising sun. According to Homer, the Oneiroi passed through one of two gates: the deceitful dreams through a polished ivory gate, while the prophetic, god-sent dreams issue from a transparent gate made of horn. Since dreams are essentially a private inner space, a hidden dialogue of thoughts and emotions, the parallel of the Oneiroi is fitting in viewing the piece as a Spirit of dreams.
Chapter’s One, Two and Three, written between 2009 and 2017, are compilations of short pieces spanning various levels, intended to be played by children. Written as presents for friends in celebration of the births of their children, each explores the piano in a different way, designating a temperament to the music, inspired by the child in some way. To mention a few, Herbie’s Funfare is filled with energy and determination. The witty and mischievous nature of A Hundred Monkeys is fitting for Evelyn, whose independence and intellect is already clear. ‘Bryn’s Blue Jay’ is graceful and light, written while I was resident at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, and ‘Luke’s Lamborghini’ reflects his love of cars. The pieces have been particularly widely performed by the Cambridge Suzuki Young Musicians, thanks to Stephen and Betty Power.