BRUSA: Orchestral Works, Vol. 2 (Fabio Mastrangelo/ Ukraine National Symphony Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.555267)
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Elisabetta Brusa (b.1954)
Orchestral Works, Volume 2
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 originated as an autonomous composition in which neo-tonal techniques are amalgamated with contrapuntal techniques, and yet it follows a certain formal tradition and an expressive style which have distinguished the numerous Adagios of the past.
Wedding Song (1997), for large orchestra, is a hymn/song-like ode to the inner and outward joy of love and marriage: gentle, deep and solemn, in one respect, joyful, open and luminous, in another. Both the hymn (inner spirituality) and the song (outward joy) are heard distinctly at first but then the two themes fuse into one musical idea and the work culminates with a festive but solemn atmosphere, underlined by various types of celebratory bells. The work is dedicated to my husband, the conductor Gilberto Serembe.
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 Hans Keller, my spiritual enlightener and mentor, with deepest gratitude and affection.
Suite Grotesque (1986), for orchestra, consists of four free fantasy movements connected to one another by a grotesque atmosphere full of unexpected timbral and structural effects that create a phantasmagoric aura within a neo-tonal style. They vary in character, however, and reflect typical movements of other established musical forms. The first is a domineering and powerful Scherzo, the second a dark, sinister and evanescent Adagio, the third an Andante pervaded by an insinuatingly gentle and melodious atmosphere and the fourth is a vigorous and caricatural Finale. The first and third movements have similar themes, as do the second and the fourth. This last movement contains all the themes of the Suite, particularly in the final fugato, where they are presented in quadruple counterpoint. They have the same tonal centre - E - in common.
Favole (Fables) (1982-1983), for orchestra, is a work for young people and the not so young, with a little philosophy, some cultural tradition and a pinch of ironic humour, but above all a great deal of fantasy and liberty in the wake of the literary texts that inspired them. The work was dedicated to my godson Matteo on the occasion of his birth.
The Lion in the Donkeys Skin (Aesop)
The Real Nightingale and the Mechanical One (Andersen)
The Ant and the Grasshopper (La Fontaine)
The Wolf and the Lamb (Aesop)
The Ugly Duckling (Andersen)
The Philosophical Fly (Aesop)
Puss in Boots (Perrault)
The stories and the characters are very well known. Most of the Fables resort to the same instruments used in famous examples such as the flute for the nightingale, the oboe for the duck and the clarinet for the cat, as in Prokofievs Peter and the Wolf. Within the seven free fantasies I have identified the cries of the animals in a spontaneous and natural way: 1) The donkeys 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, of the mechanical bird played by the piccolo and the glockenspiel; all of a sudden the mechanical nightingale breaks down, onomatopoeically expressed by the glissandi of the strings and by the sound of the rattle at the end of the last carillon-like section, so the real nightingale is able to triumph with its lyrical singing; 3) The difference between the industrious and tenacious ant, represented by short, erratic scales and by the persistent rhythm of the hammer on the anvil, and the grasshopper, represented by the saxophone with its languid tone and cabaret-like music with maracas; the guiro imitates the chirping of the grasshopper; 4) The dark and sinister wolf, represented by the brass (mostly the horns) but also by the bassoons and the lower strings, which together create a dark texture, and its attempts at trying to catch the lamb, represented by a lighter texture consisting of the complete wind and string sections; in particular, the sheeps bleating at times interrupts this more gentle and rocking motion; at first the lamb is able to persuade the wolf not to eat it, but not for long because then the impatient wolf suddenly gobbles it in one mouthful; 5) The ugly little duckling, represented by the oboe which expresses its solitude and sadness interrupted by bursts of youthful playfulness; the various phases of the metamorphosis of the ugly duckling into a magnificent white swan are represented by the orchestra playing waves of tremolos and trills, the last of which transforms the atmosphere into one of calm and purity with the sound of the ascending horn; 6) A fly falls into a frying pan; during its last minute of life its thoughts are: \I have eaten, I have drunk, I have had a bath. What more do I want from life?".....and so it dies; this movement is a Funeral March whose dynamics pass from forte (the screeching of various instruments and the fizzling of the suspended cymbal) to piano (the laments of the strings), to fade away to silence with a glissando of the timpani which represents the flys spirits ascent to heaven; 7) A Royal March opens the final movement; the central section, describes the cats crafty and cunning behaviour and its pranks, begins with three "meows" of the clarinet and is full of contrasting timbral effects, particularly by the percussion; the return of the Royal March marks the conclusion.
Born in Milan, Italy, in 1954, Elisabetta Brusa studied at the Conservatorio of her city, graduating with the Diploma of Composition in 1980. She then followed composition courses at the Dartington Summer School of Music in England, and at the Tanglewood Music Center, Massachussetts, with a Fromm Foundation Fellowship and a Fulbright bursary. She also studied with Hans Keller in London. She has won first prize in the Washington International Competition for Composition for String Quartet and three consecutive Fellowships from the MacDowell Colony (U.S.A.). She has received numerous commissions and her compositions have been performed in Italy, the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Russia, Austria, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Korea and Albania with orchestras such as the BBC Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony, CBC Vancouver, St Petersburg Symphony, Tanglewood Music Center and many other orchestras, ensembles and soloists. Her music has been broadcast and televised in many countries. She has taught Composition since 1980, at the Conservatorio of Milan since 1985, and also Traditional Orchestration since 2002.