Christopher WRIGHT (b. 1954)
Spring Overture (2007)a [4:45]
A Little Light Music (2006)b [15:05]
Threnody for Orchestra (2002)c [10:18]
Searching (2006)d [10:34]
Idyll for Small Orchestra (2000)e [9:18]
Divertimento (2008)f [8:29]
Capriccio Burlesque (2008)g [5:02]
Maxwell Spiers (cor anglais)d; John Turner (treble recorder)f
Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Barry Wordsworthbg, Gavin Sutherlandacd;
Manchester Sinfonia/Christopher Wrightef
rec. Angel Studios, London, 15 March 2007 (A Little Light Music, Capriccio Burlesque) and 9 July 2007 (Spring Overture, Threnody, Searching) and St Thomas’ Church, Stockport, 19 January 2009 (Idyll, Divertimento)
DUTTON CDLX 7240 [64:11]

Christopher Wright is a relatively new name to me. Before this disc I had heard just one work of his: Munrow’s Muse (available on Cameo 2082). I thus welcome the opportunity to hear more. All the works recorded here are fairly recent. They were composed over the last ten years or so.

The earliest is Idyll for Small Orchestra, composed in 2000 for a local amateur orchestra led by the composer’s wife. Wright’s idiom is clearly indebted to what is often referred to as the English pastoral school; none the worse for that. The music obviously breathes the same air as that of some works by, say, Delius and Moeran. It opens and closes in a peaceful pastoral mood. In between comes a somewhat more animated, at times more stringent section. This is delightful, and unpretentious and the composer describes the piece as “a shameless piece of old-fashioned Englishness, understated, reserved and pastoral”. This is a highly attractive piece of music.

The other orchestral scores are somewhat different from one another. On the one hand Spring Overture is jolly with a clearly outdoor mood - one may think here of Copland and of Walton. On the other hand, Threnody for Orchestra is considerably more serious partly triggered by personal events. This is certainly the most overtly personal work. It connotes much more than its comparative brevity might imply.

The other works are all scored for string orchestra and, from what one hears, Wright writes beautifully and expertly for strings. The very title of A Little Light Music evidently suggests Mozart’s well-known serenade whereas the titles of some of the movements nod towards Britten. So, the second movement is a deeply-felt Sarabande while the lively Finale is entitled “Frolic”. Besides being superbly written for strings, the music is not always that light. This is quite evident in the Sarabande. Again, this is a very attractive work and one that belongs to that long canon of British works for string orchestra. Searching for Cor Anglais and Strings is fairly substantial despite its brevity. The melancholic tone of the cor anglais perfectly suits the nostalgic, autumnal mood of the music. Composed for John Turner - who else? - the Divertimento for Treble Recorder and Strings is a somewhat lighter work in three sections played without a break. There’s a lively Presto giocoso, a reflective Lento and a final Prestissimo ritmico, a fast variation of the first section in which the work rushes to its brilliant close on “a super-high F”. Again, the title of Capriccio Burlesque evokes a similarly titled work by Walton and the music, as in Spring Overture, displays hints of Walton.

Most works in this enjoyable release are primarily entertaining and unpretentious, but this one nonetheless illustrates the composer’s more serious intent in Threnody and Searching. As already mentioned, the music is superbly crafted and always makes its point without undue fuss and, by doing so, never outstays its welcome.

All these performances are very fine indeed as is the recording. This release is well up to Dutton’s best standards. This is a highly enjoyable and rewarding release of Christopher Wright’s well-crafted and honest music-making. The music is well worth more than the occasional hearing.

Hubert Culot