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.
“Adagio” (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.
“Requiescat” (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.
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.
“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.