JEROME DE BROMHEAD (b.1945): Symphony No. 2, Violin Concerto, A Lay for a Light Year.
Catalogue Number: 06S008
Label: Toccata Classics
Reference: TOCC 0422
Description: Bromhead is an Irish composer, active for many years before a devastating car accident brought his activities to a temporary halt. These works date from after that watershed, and are readily accessible, though with notable seriousness of content and intent; it is clear that like the Romantics of the past, he intends his music to have something to say. As he puts it, he is "neither a Post-Modernist nor a deaf-as-a-post Modernist, and I hope for an audience whose brow is high but not furrowed." The muscular three-movement symphonyof 1994 is the most overtly neo-romantic of these works. The first movement begins with blaring fanfares, and this belligerent, martial, percussion-driven mood persists for much of the movement, interspersed with calmer, contrapuntal material. By complete contrast, the slow movement is static and mysterious, with shifting planes of ambiguous harmony suggesting vast, open, lonely spaces with a vague sense of looming menace. The finale returns somewhat to the thrusting forward motion of the opening, strongly rhythmic though now lighter in texture and with a sense of motion toward a more optimistic outcome. A Lay was written as an overture to this program. In the time-honored tradition of such pieces, it is an energetic and colorful, upbeat piece, teeming with events and rapidly juxtaposed ideas. The title suggests this; the composer relates it to the idea of cosmological collisions at a great distance. The unruly complexity of the surface textures contrasts with the strongly felt tonal centers that anchor the work, mirroring the apparent stasis of turbulent events seen at a great distance. The 2008 concerto combines lyricism with a degree of angular clarity. The first movement embraces a good deal of dissonance within a freely extended tonal vocabulary, and some aspects of its textures and dramatic momentum recall Stravinsky. The finale is aggressive and percussion-driven, with great forward drive, while the violin, more at odds with the orchestra here than in the other movements, attempts to exert a calming influence. The central slow movement is elegiac and more consonant than the outer movements, with subtly shifting ambiguous harmonies accompanying the violin's melancholy song. Alan Smale (violin), RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra; Colman Pearce.