Edoardo Bruni’s Unusual Chamber Music

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BRUNI: Trio ricorsivo for Clarinet, Cello & Piano. Metatropes for Harp / Lorenzo Guzzoni, cl; Giuseppe Barutti, cel; Volha Karmyzava, pno; Francesca Tirale, harp / Tactus TC 970202

In a world where to be a modern composer generally means to create jagged, edgy works designed to shock the listener into submission, it’s nice to hear at least one composer whose music, though clearly and thoroughly modern, still adheres to basic principles of a melodic line, a forward rhythm and a legato style.

Welcome to the sound world of Edoardo Bruni, an Italian composer who is practically an enigma online—unless you happen to be able to read Italian, which I do not. Nothing in English exists to tell you when he was born, who he studied with, etc. The inlay for the present CD reveals that he was born in 1975, and the liner notes indicate that he started composing in 1992. Bruni tells us that he went through three stylistic changes, beginning as a “Romantic” composer, followed by a “surrealist” period from 1996-2005, and the “heroic” of 2000-2008. He drew the line in regards to his artistic “manifesto” in 2010 when he embarked on what he calls his “pan-modality technique.” Lots of modern composers, both jazz and classical, love to cling to “modality” as if it were a badge of honor when, in fact, a mode is just an older form of scale in which a couple of intervals are altered.

But to get back to the actual music, Bruni’s Trio ricorsivo is clearly a work built on classical models while using more modern harmonic language, and the latter, as mentioned above, merely alters a few notes in the “expected” scale sequence that one hears. I also liked the fact that this music has human warmth; it is not icy or forbidding, and in the slow movement of the Trio ricorsivo there is actually a bit of humor. Bruni, at least at this stage of his career, apparently likes to be the Italian Jean Françaix, which is perfectly all right in my book. I would hazard a guess that it is this way because he began as a neo-Romantic composer. There’s a strong undercurrent in his music of late 19th-century chamber works without their being obvious or pretentious about it.

Bruni likes bouncing and rocking rhythms, as there are several of them in this trio. In a way, he has—consciously or not—mirrored the artistic growth of Stravinsky, who began his composing career as a neo-Romantic under Rimsky-Korsakov’s tutelage, then became a “surrealist” with the advent of Le Scare du Printemps, and then moved into his neo-classical phase in the early 1920s. Stravinsky went so far as to borrow actual themes from the older composers in his work. Bruni doesn’t go that far but, as I say, his music is redolent of the past without directly quoting it.

And he clearly understands instrumental technique since so many passages in this trio call for certain technical devices, which he always puts to the service of the music rather than vice-versa. One of the principal differences between this piece and a similar one by Françaix is that Bruni’s rhythms and melodic lines sound as if they have their origin in Italian popular culture, which makes sense. At one point in the last movement of the trio, he uses the cello like a jazz bass, plucking its way through syncopated passages to support the top line played by the clarinet. The last movement is the most syncopated, and here quite clearly influenced by jazz rhythm.

Since the harp is a quieter instrument than any of the three preceding, the Metatropes are by their very nature quieter, gentler music. Some are more harmonically conventional than others; No. 2 sounds very Middle Eastern-influenced in harmony (or mode). Bruni also calls on the performer in these works to use a surprisingly wide dynamic range, which I didn’t even know the harp was capable of.

Not surprisingly, these pieces are much more atmospheric than the preceding trio, and at times the music tends to become more amorphic and less tightly structured—by design, I am sure. Some of it could get by being played on your local classical radio station, but I’m sure some listeners would be upset because it doesn’t develop in conventional directions or patterns. Sometimes, in fact, the pieces break up with pauses inserted where you least expect them. The composer gives us scenarios for each of the seven pieces here in the liner notes, but you can ignore them when listening since they are based on mythology (Pan and the satyrs) and therefore aren’t real to begin with.

Overall, a very interested and enjoyable CD.

—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley

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