Ahead of the new recording release on RTF Label on Friday 5 October we talk with Charlotte Bray, pianist Huw Watkins and violinist Philipp Bohnen about the producing and recording on the RTF Label.
DG: Welcome all three! Let me start with you Charlotte. Very exciting to see this second portrait CD of your music, you must be thrilled!
CB: Thank you, it is very exciting to have a second disc of my music released. My NMC Debut Disc was released four years ago and comprises of a range of works from solo to orchestral, including vocal works. For the new disc I wanted to focus on chamber and solo works, mainly for strings, spanning the last 6 years or so. Richard Thomas, who owns a record label linked with his charitable foundation encouraged me to develop the idea and is releasing the disc on the RTF (Richard Thomas Foundation) Classical label: junkibu.com/rtf-classical. Aside the RTF’s support, I am incredibly grateful to have received funding from the PRS Foundation Composers Fund and the Nicholas Boas Charitable Trust, allowing the project to come to fruition.
DG: It takes a lot of work and support to realise quality recordings. Huw, you’ve performed quite a number of Charlotte’s works over the years. Where and when did you first encounter her music?
HW: I first met Charlotte when she was still studying at the RCM. I remember even then being struck by her strong, distinctive compositional personality; and I always took great pleasure in working on her music. She has always written satisfying (and occasionally challenging) piano parts.
DG: You perform Charlotte’s Invisible Cities here with violist Barbara Buntrock. With its four adjoined movements exploring numerous musical avenues I imagine it’s quite an intense piece to perform.
HW: The first of the four main sections in particular is fast and rhythmically complex and requires great concentration. I think you’re right to say that because there are no breaks between the movements, so the experience of performing it is more intense; fortunately though the music is so engaging and clear in its contrasting sections that there’s no danger of the listener getting lost.
DG: Hi Philipp, you’re new to me. Tell me about yourself and the Mariani Klavierquartett
PB: In 2009 the four members of the Mariani Piano Quartet played at a chamber music festival for the first time together in this formation. We knew each other long time before that and then decided after the festival to continue the work as a Piano Quartet because we immediately enjoyed very much working together. From day one it was a lot of fun as well as very serious and joyful music making. We named ourself after the violin maker who built Barbaras Viola. A viola of Antonio Mariani.
What is special about the quartet is that we whilst we each play in different ensembles and great orchestras we always come back to our Mariani Piano Quartet formation to discover more unknown repertoire and also enjoy the classics and masterpieces of our formation.
DG: As with Invisible Cities, Zustände takes the Klavierquartett on quite a journey…
PB: Yes, Zustände is an intense piece with remarkable sounds, colors and very challenging but fun rhythmical passages. If I understood Charlotte correctly, she was inspired to write the piece when seeing huge icebergs from a very near distance. If you listen especially to the first bars of the first movement you can hear the ice freezing and breaking from time to time. Never knowing whether you might break through and always hoping not to.
DG: You also perform Beyond for solo violin work, a highly expressive 4 minute work with no bar lines. What’s it like to play?
PB: When I first started learning Beyond I felt a little bit lost, but after the first moments of surprise I started to really enjoy the freedom of it very much. The motifs and melodies speak their own very fine language and the combination of the freedom of the timing and very round deep sounds make Beyond a very great piece to play. There is a whole world of meaning within this 4 minutes of music. I enjoy it every time I play it!
DG: Charlotte, you clearly set some challenges for your performers. Do you feel an impulse to push the technical boundaries or is it more a case of searching for ways to set out what you hear in your head?
CB: I set out to notate my ideas in the most straight forward way possible. The music in my head is often not the most simple to write however, and it is a constant challenge to find the best way to notate the ideas. It is also interesting (and necessary) to push technical boundaries in pursuit of ones true vision, but I believe a balance always needs to be struck in order for the music to have its best chance of flourishing.
DG: Thank you all for chatting with me. Great relationships between composer and performer are at the heart of creating wonderful music – long may it last for you all!
I’m happy to be able to offer all our CE Club members a full 15% discount on this release (in email inboxes, free to join).
Tags: Amaryllis Quartett, Barbara Buntrock, Beyond, Chamber and Solo Works, Charlotte Bray, Huw Watkins, Invisible Cities, Mariani Klavierquartett, On the Other Shore, Peter-Philipp Staemler, Philipp Bohnen, Recording, RTF Label, The Sun was Chasing Venus, Zustände