Naxos Vol. 3. Orchestral Music 8.573437 – Symphony N. 1, Merlin

“Symphony No. 1 First Mov. Finale” (1988-1990) for large orchestra shares many similarities of language and expression with her Nittemero Symphony (1986-1988) [Naxos 8.555266], as well as the fundamental framework of sonata form. On first hearing, Symphony No. 1 leaves an overwhelming impression of sheer volume of sound, and of immense orchestration alternating monumental instrumental blocks with contrasting moments of pure lyricism. The opening bars of the first movement, with their dotted rhythms and ‘chiaroscuro’ (light and dark contrasts), recall the opening bars of Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony. The orchestration of the work, with its ample percussion, harp and keyboards, has the unusual effect of fluctuating between intensifying the tumultuous soundscape and soothing the emotional tension. The work’s harmonic language is based around the note C sharp (which acts as the pivotal point for chordal mutations) and there are numerous thematic and rhythmic leitmotifs woven throughout the course of all four movements. The initial Allegro ma non troppo is characterised by a certain aggression, while the lyrical Adagio, of almost Brucknerian length, is a showcase for the composer’s ecstatic and ethereal moods. Occasionally there are references to Holst, Vaughan Williams and Walton, all of them composers dear to Brusa and with whom she shares compositional colouring. The third movement, a 3/4 Allegro in the form of a typical Scherzo, whirls the listener around as if in the throes of a gothic “Valse” of death which alternates two themes, one in smooth and undulating compound time, the other in concisely rhythmic duple time. The Allegro moderato finale resumes Brusa’s typical orchestration of alternate and overlapping instrumental blocks with the original dotted rhythm re-presented and interwoven with lyrical motifs from the Adagio. The shattering conclusion to the symphony is reached with a sudden and almighty C sharp. Symphony No. 1 is dedicated to the composer’s teacher and mentor Hans Keller.

“Symphony No. 1 Second Mov. Beginning”(1988-1990) for large orchestra


“Symphony No. 1 Third Mov. Beginning”(1988-1990) for large orchestra


“Symphony No. 1 Fourth Mov. Finale” (1988-1990) for large orchestra


“Merlin” (2004) for large orchestra. Mythology, literature, art and travel have always played a strong role in Elisabetta Brusa’s life. This symphonic poem, tells the story (or rather emotionally describes) of Merlin, one of history’s best-loved legendary figures and and one for whom she has long had a fascination. In contrast to her Symphony No. 1, Merlin is a work free from the constraints of a traditional musical form, (as are the works recorded on her two previous Naxos albums) rather being a musically programmatic reflection of the character. As creator of the Round Table, Merlin’s magic enabled Uther Pendragon and Ygraine to conceive King Arthur, who was then raised by Merlin until his accession to the throne of Camelot. In Brusa’s symphonic poem an incessant rhythm, passed around the various instrumental sections and percussion (note the unusual yet pertinent presence of the anvil), provides the backdrop to a large-intervalled melody. This melody makes use of ethereal harmonies and magical instrumental effects which enchant the imagination of the listener, creating a solemn and spellbinding atmosphere. Merlin’s disappearance into a puff of smoke is brilliantly and wittily described in the work’s finale.                                               Notes by Gilberto Serembe

Naxos Vol 2. Orchestral Music 8.555267 – Firelights, Adagio, Wedding Song, Requiescat, Suite Grotesque, Favole.

“Firelights” (1992-1993) for large orchestra is a free fantasy inspired by various masterpieces written throughout the centuries for festive events such as fireworks, dances, mythological stories, chimerical and wild scenes and also phantasmagoric images and atmospheres. The work is dedicated to the conductor Fabio Mastrangelo.

(1996) for string orchestra is a freely structured composition in a single movement inspired by well-known masterpieces such as those of Albinoni, Mahler (Adagietto), Rodrigo and Barber. Independent of a pre-established form (sonata or suite), it originates as an autonomous composition in which Neo-Tonal techniques are amalgamated with contrappuntal techniques and yet it follows a certain formal tradition and an expressive style which have distinguished the numerous “Adagios” of the past.

(1994) for large orchestra is a freely structured musical prayer in a single movement inspired by the spiritual aura of many famous Requiems, but above all by the simple words of the well-known inscription found on tombs: “Requiescat in Pace. Amen”, with which it ends. It is not a tragic work but one that reflects a more positive attitude towards the sorrow and the longing for a dearly departed person. Requiescat is dedicated to the memory of Maestro Hans Keller, my spiritual enlightener and mentor, with deepest gratitude and affection.


“Favole” (“Fables” – 1982-1983) for orchestra is a work for young peopleand the not so young, with a little philosophy, some cultural tradition anda pinch of ironic humour, but above all a great deal of fantasy and libertyin the wake of the literary texts that inspired them. The work was dedicatedto my godson Matteo in occasion of his birth.
1) The Lion in the Donkey’s Skin – (Aesop)
2) The Real Nightingale and the Mechanical One – (Andersen)
3) The Ant and the Cicada – (La Fontaine)
4) The Wolf and the Sheep – (Aesop)
5) The Ugly Duckling – (Andersen)
6) The Philosophical Fly (Aesop)
7) Puss in Boots (Perrault)
The stories and the characters are very well known. Most of the Fablesresort to the same instruments used in famous examples such as the flute forthe nightingale, the oboe for the duck and the clarinet for the cat as inProkofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf”. Within the seven free fantasies I haveidentified the cries of the animals in a spontaneous and natural way:
1) The donkey’s attempts at roaring, his clip-clopping and his final braying.
2)The difference between the lyrical melody of the real nightingale (flute)and the more rhythmical and less emotional melody, similar to a carillon, ofthe mechanical bird played by the piccolo and the glockenspiel. All of asudden the mechanical nightingale breaks down, onomatopoeically expressed bythe glissandi of the strings and by the sound of the rattle at the end ofthe last carillon-like section, so the real nightingale is able to triumphwith its lyrical singing.
3) The difference between the industrious andtenacious ant, represented by short, erratic scales and by the persistentrhythm of the hammer on the anvil, and the cicada, represented by thesaxophone with its languid tone and cabaret-like music with maracas. Theguiro imitates the chirping of the cicada.
4) The dark and sinister wolf,represented by the brass (mostly the horns) but also by the bassoons and thelower strings which together create a dark texture, and its attempts attrying to catch the sheep, represented by a lighter texture consisting ofthe complete wind and string sections. In particular, the sheep’s bleatingat times interrupts this more gentle and rocking motion. At first the sheepis able to persuade the wolf not to eat it, but not for long because thenthe impatient wolf suddenly gobbles it in one mouthful.
5) The ugly littleduckling, represented by the oboe which expresses its solitude and sadnessinterrupted by bursts of youthful playfulness. The various phases of themetamorphosis of the ugly duckling into a magnificent white swan are represented by the orchestra playing waves of tremolos and trills, the lastof which transforms the atmosphere into one of calm and purity with thesound of the ascending horn.
6) A fly falls into a frying pan. During itslast minute of life its thoughts are: “I have eaten, I have drunk, I havehad a bath. What more do I want from life?”. . . . . and so it dies. Thismovement is a Funeral March whose dynamics pass from forte (the screechingof various instruments and the fizzling of the suspended cymbal) to piano(the laments of the strings), to fade away to silence with a glissando ofthe timpani which represents the fly’s spirit ascent to heaven.
7) A RoyalMarch opens the final movement. The central section, describes the cat’scrafty and cunning behaviour and its pranks, begins with three “meows” ofthe clarinet and is full of contrasting timbral effects, particularly by thepercussion. The return of the Royal March marks the conclusion.


Naxos Vol. 1 Orchestral Music 8.555266 – Florestan, Messidor, La Triade, Nittemero Symphony, Fanfare.

“Florestan” (1997) for large orchestra is a symphonic work freely inspired by Schumann’s well known imaginary character portrayed in his many essays on music, later collected in the book entitled “Gesammelte Schriften uber Musik und Musiker. “Florestan” reflects the fiery, passionate and fantastic side of Schumann’s own character. I also consider it an autobiographical portrait.


“Messidor” (1998) for orchestra is a free and graceful fantasy inspired by the various masterpieces, both literary and musical, entitled “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. The definition was used to define the period from June 19th to July 24th during the French Revolution when the yearly calendar was temporarily changed. The work is dedicated to my husband, the conductor Gilberto Serembe.

“La Triade” (“The Triad” – 1994) for large orchestra is a symphonic poemfreely inspired by a fable by Aesop. The three elements that make up thedrama are a fox, a snake and a tangle of thorny brambles caught up in atempestuous and menacing scenery (musical atmospheres and sound effects). The literary text follows.
Rain pours down incessantly, a curtain of water shaken at times byviolent gusts of wind. It seems as if the deluge will never end – clearskies and the sun are only remote recollections or perhaps even an illusionof the mind. Nightfall comes precipitously. The clouds pile up, a greatshapeless flock, accompanied by thunder and fringed with lightening. Fromtime to time loose ends of whitish vapour, at a lower level, dash about inunforeseen directions like advanced patrols on sudden reconnaissancemissions. The bad weather seems to have reached a paroxysm in thisuninhabited valley between its craggy straits. Thunderbolts with crashesand flashes hurl down burning the top of the unarmed fir trees. The streaminordinately swollen has left its bed and is crashing with fury against rocks usually out of reach of its foaming assaults. It breaks into the banks among the roots of the trees, eroding the earth and attempting at thestability of the trunks. At times, constrained between rocky cliffs, it runsimpetuous and compact as if going to face new battles and conquests. And here comes a fox, moved by fear and by destiny. The drenched furemphasises its thinness. It moves along the higher edges of the stream,looking for a safe shelter. Restlessly it turns its head glancing over itsshoulder as if in fear of new and immediate dangers. It reaches a pointsufficiently high above the stream that is now spreading unopposed across aplateau. The fox finds shelter in a small cavity in the rock just slightlylarger than a coat. It leans its sharp muzzle out, the watchful eyesglittering in the dark. Suddenly its attention is taken by an indefiniteshape among the boulders and the waves. A great tangle of thorny twigs, dead in winter and torn from their graveby the flood, is being dragged violently downstream. Among its pricklythorns, washed and almost resuscitated by the waters, the coils of a snakeare untangling. It is alive and poisonous and is trying to keep its headabove the foam in a desperate yearning for oxygen and a haven lessprecarious than that in which it is forcibly seized. That great knot ofboughs and thorns, poison and scales passes out of the narrow passage intothe wider stream just under the rocky spur on which the fox has foundshelter. For one instant the leading characters of the play are alltogether. A gleam sparks suddenly from the brain of the fox which breaksinto a chilling laugh: “The pilot is worthy of the boat, Ha, Ha, Ha. ” Its raucous voice seems for a moment to overpower the uproar of the elements, whilst the bundle of twigsand its occupant race speedily across the plain and disappear intoinscrutable darkness.
Fable by Aesop elaborated by Giuseppe Brusa and translated from Italian. Both the composer and the author were inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s description of “The Deluge” taken from his treatise on painting.
“Nittemero Symphony”(1985-1988) for orchestra (or ensemble of 14 performers) is cyclic; there are themes with a unitary character recurringin all three movements. The first, an “Allegro ma non troppo”, is in avaried rond­ form; the second, a “Largo”, is a free fantasy; the third, an “Allegro ma non troppo”, is in sonata form. They reflect the course andvariations of feelings and moods during the entire 24-hour cycle of a day according to the astronomical definition of ancient Greek times. (Nittemero,from ancient Greek, means night and day. ) The cycle was measured from middayto midday of the following day. There was thus an afternoon, (Allegro), anight, (Largo), and a morning, (Allegro). A further connecting factor is themain tonal centre of B-flat, common to all three movements. New techniques,Neo-Tonal (in part Minimalist), are amalgamated with traditionalcontrapuntal techniques. The work is dedicated to my best friend Anna on thebirth of her son Giovanni.


“Fanfare” (1996) for large orchestra is a free fantasy inspired by various compositions that were written throughout the centuries for ceremonial and celebratory occasions. Thus the preponderant use of the brass and the melodic interval of the fourth, typical of this instrumental section, though fused within a Neo-Tonal language and techniques. The work is dedicated to the conductor Odaline de la Martinez with grateful thanks for her moral and practical support.


The “Sonata Rapsodica” for violin and piano consists of four movementsapparently typical of the classical sonata form: Allegro Energico, Allegretto, Scherzo and Allegro Brillante. In reality none of the fourmovements are in sonata form. Each one is a free fantasy on themes which inpart recur varied or transformed in the other movements. This freedom offantasy, obviously less formal than in other sonatas of the more rigoroustype, justifies the title “Rapsodica”. However, the proper spirit of the Classic-Romantic Sonata remains well present throughout all the piece,though expressed with Neo-Tonal rhythms and harmonies.