Christopher WRIGHT (b. 1954)

A Vision of Heaven
Four Meditations for Soprano, Violin and Piano (1995-98) [18:234]
A Vision of Heaven for Soprano and Piano (2006) [19:24]
Four East Coast Sketches for Harp (2006) [17:00]
Lyric Movement for Flute and Harp (2006) [6:44]
Soliloquy (Darkness to Light) for Alto Flute (2006) [6:37]
Pastorale for Violin and Piano (1996) [4:11]
Lesley-Jane Rogers (soprano); Helena Ruinard (violin); Danielle Perrett (harp); Simon Lepper (piano); Tim Kipling (alto flute)
rec. Alpheton Mill. Suffolk, 5 September 2006; St Mary's Parish Church, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 29-30 October 2006. DDD
The English composer Christopher Wright studied with Richard Arnell at the Colchester Institute.
This Merlin disc surveys a selection of his works of chamber proportions. As such it complements the orchestral disc just released by Dutton.
The CD insert offers a good compact profile of the composer. All the usual context is provided for the music and the recording project including the sung texts. The Four Meditations are touchingly sung by the soprano Lesley-Jane Rogers. These four songs and the three comprising A Vision of Heaven - which lends its name to the disc - are in an idiom that I can best, if rather inadequately, approximate to that of Rubbra in his mystical and chastely devotional song-cycles. There are also echoes of Holst in his twelve Humbert Wolfe Songs and the Four Medieval Songs for soprano and violin. The piano part is adeptly turned by Simon Lepper. Lepper responds with starry stillness and one moment and impetuosity at the next. Some of it uncannily recalls the piano line in the later Finzi-Hardy songs. The rhetoric and drama of Vision of Heaven reminded me of Alan Bush's Voices of the Prophets. Its repetition of words recalls Britten and there’s a touch Aaron Copland also. I say this only to help the reader get his bearings; not in any way to impugn the freshness of Wright’s invention. The most impressive song is bound up in the most impressive words - Hardy's Why Do I? In its cold reflection it reminded me of the more desolate Hardy settings by Gerald Finzi. Christopher Wright lays convincing claim to being a very significant composer writing in a recognised idiom. I wondered whether A Vision of Heaven was originally intended for voice and orchestra; it certainly has that feel. We know Danielle Perrett from her ineffably beautiful ASV CD of the Rubbra harp music. She is in similarly atmospheric and lyrical vein in Four East Coast Sketches. The music catches the arching grey skies and the sparsely peopled landscape. Performance and music convey a certain loneliness. Wright has perhaps garnered this and the quintessence of spirit of place through early morning walks. The Sketches amount to a substantial four movement suite playing for approaching seventeen minutes. In Sunrise the music stretches instrument and player with many effects as if to evoke fauna in motion just before the first rays. Cross Currents interlaces singing lines in beatific and delicately dancing interaction. The sequence of four tone poems ends with The Coastal Path - a haltingly thoughtful essay written as if in a dream of a walk rather than the walk itself. Perrett is joined by Timothy Kipling for Lyric Movement - music of skeletally limned suggestion of song often waylaid by thoughts that come unbidden. Soliloquy takes us further into the maze. The inscape psychological dimensions of this music are to the fore. Wright in this case does not lean towards the pictorial - place is referenced by its sense. Ths is what is captured rather than anything literal of landscape or building except perhaps in the first movement of the Sketches and also in the classically countryside delights of Pastorale for violin and piano - a lovely piece though not quite as innocent as it might first seem.
Wright the reflective pastoral visionary.
Rob Barnett