, January 2009
Elisabetta Brusa was born in Milan and studied at the Conservatoire, before moving on to participate at Dartington and Tanglewood. Of the two Naxos discs of her orchestral music, this is the more enticing. The glittering Scherzo, Firelights, is characteristic of her orchestral skill, but the expressive eloquence of the following 16-minute Adagio would not be out of place in almost any late 20th-century symphony, and the engagingly rhapsodic Wedding Song (‘an ode to the inner and outward joy of love and marriage’) that follows is memorable in a lustrously romantic way.
The yearning Requiescat for large orchestra (‘a freely structured musical prayer in a single movement;) is dedicated to the composer’s mentor, Hans Keller, and ends with a soaring solo soprano voice adding to the passionate celebration of the coda. The Suite grotesque might be regarded as a Sinfonietta, with its slightly weird opening Scherzo, a darkly atmospheric slow movement, and a vigorous finale that gathers together the themes of the preceding movements ‘in quadruple counterpoint’, to reach a very positive apotheosis.
In the Fables Brusa uses the same orchestral identifications as did Prokofiev in Peter and the Wolf, so the listener had no trouble in identifying the characters. Most imaginative are Hans Andersen’s The Real Nightingale and the Mechanical One, and the innocently poignant portrait of The Ugly Duckling. Most picaresque is La Fontaine’s The Ant and the Grasshopper (a saxophone), but The Philosophical Fly (Aesop) meets his end spectacularly, and Perrault’s Puss in Boots is given a jolly royal march, with a winningly jaunty main theme. First-class performances and a splendidly vivid recording…