Zustände for violin, viola, cello and piano by Charlotte Bray.

This work was composed in 2016 and first performed on 18 March 2017 at Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon by Simon Blendis (violin), Douglas Paterson (viola), Jane Salmon (cello) and William Howard (piano).

Zustände was commissioned by The Schubert Ensemble in patnership with the Wiltshire Music Centre, supported by the Schubert Ensemble Trust, the Wiltshire Music Centre, PRS for Music Foundation and the Steel Charitable Trust.

Programme Notes

Zustände, meaning 'states', refers to the various forms of ice that inspired the piece. Whether a lone iceberg, large chunks breaking off from the fragile edge of a glacier, or the crackle of an ice field melting in the sun, the imaginary realisation of the sounds generated by the moving ice drove the conceptualisation of the piece. Its structure arises from the use of three photographs taken during a recent visit to Greenland; a single image forming the motivation behind each movement.

Brittle, splintering ice is the state from which the first movement finds its timbral character. Focusing on colour, I reimagined the sound of the cracking ice, slowly floating in the sound from the face of the glacier. Techniques including tremolo, col legno and pizzicato are used by the strings to create the unique texture of the material. Slowly disintegrating in the glistening sun, sparks are heard as the ice cracks within, becoming weaker and ever more fragile. The feeling of being trapped - alluding to the molecules within smaller icebergs - is achieved by encapsulating the music in a high register and progressing very slowly harmonically. Active yet muted, the music is in constant motion but at an inherently slow rate.

A majestic, lone iceberg inspired the second movement, the melodic core of the work, which sees solos moving upwards through the strings, floating powerfully and majestically unaccompanied. The structure was shaped by the traced outline of the iceberg itself. By analogy, smooth and freely sculpted by the wind, the music is supported by a secure steady bass, resonating in the chunky block chords of the piano in the latter part of the movement.

Varied and unpredictable, the final movement is located within the highly energised, at times threatening, environment of an ice field. The passage shifts between blocks of material representing different physical states: firstly, bright, active and alert, the music is tossed between ice forms. The second is shockingly rigid, as if trapped in a block of ice: tight, high tension polyrhythmic and staccato. An eerie stillness characterises the third state, as if from somewhere distant, trills, and oscillations quietly fill the air. The fourth is very lively, once again within the ice field. Each time material recurs the order constantly varies, heard from a different perspective.

- Charlotte Bray

Performance Notes

String indications and bowings are suggestions only.

Duration: 13 minutes