Fanfare

Pandora’s Last Gift is a compilation of Christopher Wright’s work over the years since 1985. The CD opens with the oldest piece, his wind quintet, which builds in upward flowing motifs that invite the listener into his world of woodwind harmony. His tone colors remind me of autumn leaves that glisten as they fall to earth in the rain. The mood is nostalgic and a poignant harmony pervades the work. Each of his chamber players is a most capable soloist, and in this transparent piece each player’s line can easily be heard. Spring’s Garden, written in 2006, is a short but intensely lyrical work for viola and piano. It could easily remind the listener of a walk among the beautiful flowers of May. Orfordness is a sand spit on the Suffolk coast of England. It was used by the military for 50 years, but now it has reverted to its natural state of wildness. Wright’s 1997 score explores the duality of that situation with harmony and dissonance, and his rousing finale reassures listeners that nature endures. The capriccio for clarinet and piano is a happy piece that makes me think of a circus; a sad clown saunters across the ring while flamboyant aerialists fly through the air above. Here, Wright’s music contains a hint of Stravinsky and music written in the early years of the 20th century.

In 2006, Wright wrote the three-movement Spirit of the Dance for the Baroque instrumental forces of recorder, violin, cello, and harpsichord. In the first section these instruments combine to play a dance of jubilation that has just a touch of pathos. The plaintive melody of the Air is well distributed among the instruments, so that the sound of the recorder comes through with a magic radiance. When the violin and cello enter, the mood becomes contemplative. The Air contrasts strongly with the on-rushing Tarantella. A brisk and playful version of the dance, Wright’s Tarantella provides a jubilant fi­nale for his well focused work. To my mind, however, the dancers are not human. They are fireflies that flit in and out of the blackness of night to delight human imagination with their grace and agility.

The Long Wait is an elegy Wright composed after the death of his father. In it, the soprano sings of death and memories filled with kindness. As her voice soars to stratospheric notes, the mood of the music infuses a sense of peace. Celebration is a tribute to recorder player John Turner on his 70th birthday. Beginning with the opening movement, this piece shows his virtuosity and the possibilities of his instrument. Written in 2013, Helter Skelter begins with cello and piano notes flying here and there. The piano plays a rhythm that seems to compete with the strings but eventually they make peace as both play a long downward cadenza. The concertino was Wright’s first paid commission. Written in 1985, the tercentenary of Bach, Handel, and D. Scarlatti, it is Neoclassical in its outlook. The Dies irae influences its first and last movements, but the central section explores delightfully expansive sonorities for strings and piano. Although this disc is about as full as technically possible, the sound is clear and the music interesting. Above all, it is wonderfully well played.

—Maria Nockin