Elisabetta Brusa: Firelights


Italian-British composer Elisabetta Brusa is an award-winning musician with a wealth of experience in the music industry. Her music has been performed by some of the top orchestras in the world including the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, and The Women’s Philharmonic. In recent years, Brusa’s orchestral works have been recorded in three comprehensive volumes by Naxos Records.

Brusa is known to be inspired by literature, art and music from past times when she composes her music. She has composed two symphonies and a number of tone poems, including the 1993 work Firelights. Brusa has described her style as:


“As close to Neo-Tonality and in particular Neo-Romanticism, but in the original sense of the word, which is nowadays often confusedly assimilated to other ones.”


The Music

The eight-minute long Firelights calls for a full symphony orchestra, with added harp, piano, celesta and percussion. A vivacious mixture of rhythmic cells and bright textures start the work off in a scintillating style. A flourish of woodwind play the first fragments of melody, which are accompanied by pizzicato strings and tuned percussion. Glorious horns sweep over the more fragmented woodwind as they flutter through their upper range. A reprise of the opening is heard once more, this time with muted upper brass also taking part. 

Brusa’s handling of textures and timbres throughout Firelights is intriguing, with there often being a richness to the sound, even if there are textural gaps. Her use of brass mutes creates a biting sound that pierces the centre of the orchestra, creating an exhilarating experience for the listener. A celestial central section of the piece makes use of the harp, piano and celesta, as they sparkle above the rest of the ensemble. 

The mysterious character of the music is a highlight of this work, with the mood shifting in directions that come as a surprise to the listener. Brusa’s use of dissonance and harmonics creates that celestial space-age feeling, whilst also creating a musical veil over the orchestra. Another reprise of the opening flourish is heard, as the music keeps pushing forwards. 

As the music reaches its ultimate climax in the last minute of the piece, all of Brusa’s skilful orchestrations culminate in a truly epic finale. Full of excitement, power and ferociousness, the ending to Firelights is a real feast for the ears.


Final Thoughts

Elisabetta Brusa’s Firelights is an epic exploration of texture, timbre and tonality, as this popular composer pushes the boundaries of any top orchestra. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns 2020

Happy Reading!

Image Source


You might also enjoy… Augusta Read Thomas: Radiant Circles


Recommended Recordings:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *