New release celebrates individual voice of Elisabetta Brusa

This installment in Naxos’ series features two works by Elisabetta Brusa: her second symphony, and “Simply Largo.” These are the same performers that recorded her first symphony in Volume Three, and the quality remains high. The Ulster Orchestra has a full yet open ensemble sound. The soloists (if not great) are very good, and Daniele Rustioni has clear ideas about where the music should take us.

Brusa’s style has been characterized as Neo-Tonal, but I’d consider that an approximation. Her harmonies don’t sound all that traditional. Perhaps it’s that Brusa doesn’t go out of her way to obliterate any sense of tonality.

The Second Symphony follows a traditional four-movement form. Brusa’s style keeps those traditional forms far in the background — but not so far that they don’t provide structure to the music.

Kudos to the Ulster Orchestra’s brass section. As Brusa notes in the booklet, she deliberately wrote their music in the highest register. The physical strain (even with professional players) to hit and maintain those notes give the symphony an edgy tension that’s quite effective.

“Simply Largo” is a totally different type of work. Here, Brusa creates what she calls a “song without words.” The melody determines the form of the work. And it just flows. It’s a beautiful work, and one that deserves to be heard more often, I think.

Both works receive their world recording premieres with this release. Now that they’re available, I’d like to see them show up on classical radio playlists and perhaps even concert programs.

Elisabetta Brusa: Orchestral Works Vol. 4
Symphony No. 2; Simply Largo
Ulster Orchestra; Daniele Rustioni, conductor
Naxos 8.574263

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