How good it is to see that the disc of music by Welsh-born composer David Braid, reviewed by myself in Fanfare 36:4 (on Toccata Classics), was not a one-off. Now another enterprising British company, Metier, has released a mixed disc of his music.

While at the Royal College of Music in London, Braid encountered Edwin Roxburgh and George Benjamin; subsequent study in Krakow led to a period with Robert Saxton at the University of Oxford. Braid lists his influences as Sibelius (in terms of formal logic), Lutoslawski, and the pu¬rity of Renaissance composers, coupled with the latter’s linear methodologies. He has a voice all of his own, however, a voice that is often intimate, reveling in whispered confidences.

On the previous disc, Braid wrote for a “Baroque/Early” soprano. Although the 2014 On Silver Trees, a setting of Walter de la Mare, seems not to stipulate that, Emily Gray’s voice has just that sort of purity. The piece is scored for mezzo, piano, and “archtop guitar,” a hollow steel-stringed guitar with full body and arched top that seems to have its own, mellow, lute-like sound. A classical guitar is used in conjunction with flute tor Invocation and Continuum (2014), the reflective “Invocation” a place of pure pastoral repose before the striking “Continuum” appears, the unsettled guitar rhythms set against slow-moving prolonged notes on the flute. The focus shifts between the movements, therefore: In the first the guitar is very much in the background, while in the second the guitar gains more prominence. Of greater scope is the Sonata for Archtop Guitar and Piano, op. 19 of 2013, writ¬ten for Braid to perform with the present performer (Sergei Podobedov). The composer delights in contrapuntal play between the instruments, enjoying the timbral similarities between the instruments while ensuring the lines are clearly delineated. The calm slow movement hints at Sibelius (Braid’s “favorite composer”) before a three-part fugue on additive rhythms injects an infectious lilt: a beau¬tiful piece, stunningly performed.

Fugue features again in the piece for clarinet and piano of 2014. Clarinetist Peter Cigleris has a seamless legato in the “Invention” before a fugue built on similar additive rhythmic principles to the final movement of the preceding sonata rounds off this delightful chamber piece (the very end is, in fact, utterly charming). It would sit well in many a recital program.

The Songs of Contrasting Subjects for mezzo and archtop guitar set four Shakespeare poems and one by Paul Bunyan. The contrasts felt in the poems are sensitively mirrored in the musical sur¬face. Another advantage of the archtop guitar is its sustaining power, which allows Braid to score minimally and highly effectively. Emily Gray is once more beyond criticism in this twilit world, Braid’s contribution providing the most remarkable bed of sound. At some 22 minutes, this is by far the longest offering on the disc, and indeed offers a sort of sonic sanctuary for the befuddled 21st- century human. Gray’s performance is impeccably controlled, while exuding an impression of re¬strained dignity. The superb recording presents the music in full detail and yet in an intimate setting. Gray sustains the threadbare lines of the final “It is thy will” brilliantly.

Taking as its starting point an improvisation on Bach’s First Lute Suite, the first of the Four Intimate Pieces for electric archtop guitar (2013/14), “Lirico,” has an open tempo indication. Braid’s own performance is deliciously ruminative before “February Lament” reveals the melancholy power of a single line (and a beautifully crafted single line, at that), a power intensified by the Sibelian “Valse triste.” The warmer harmonies of “Tomorrow’s Daydream” coupled with a reflective de¬meanor close a beautifully recorded set. The placement of the guitar is spot-on in the sound space, the crystal clarity and absolute joy.

The Piano Sonata (2012) is the first of two (so far). In each of its three movements, each hand is limited by only white or black keys (putting the piece in lineage with Chopin and Ligeti, for in¬stance). The simplicity of writing in the first movement, predominantly two-part, is winningly con¬veyed by Rossitza Stoycheva. The slow movement comes with a long and unique instruction: “Imagine a slightly broken, white, very beautiful, highly advanced and slender android trying to waltz alone in a large, empty, slightly darkened room, late in the afternoon.” The idea of broken ma¬chinery might seem perhaps to reference the music of John Woolrich (The Ghost in the Machine, 1990), but in a very individual and successful way. A veneer of distanced reality overshadows Braid’s central movement before the moto perpetuo finale takes over, brilliantly played by Stoycheva, who projects all the potential energy of the buzzing texture. Braid asks the performer to hold down sustained notes to add an extra “voice.” This is a splendid piece.

Finally, a duo of pieces from 2015—two solos for electric archtop guitar, the op. 45 Wordless Song—is improvisatory in effect, as is the op. 43 For Alex. This latter piece is dedicated to the son of Fanfare contributor and owner of Toccata Classics, Martin Anderson. Cast in two parts through¬out its duration, it makes for a profound close to this notable disc.

—Colin Clarke