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Jerome de BROMHEAD (b.1945)
Orchestral Music
A Lay for a Light Year (2014) [9:30]
Violin Concerto (2008) [35:05]
Symphony No. 2 (1994) [30:55]
Alan Smale (violin)
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra/Colman Pearce
rec. 2014, National Concert Hall of Ireland, Dublin

Jerome de Bromhead's name was completely unfamiliar to me and I suspect will be to the vast majority of music-lovers - even those who are never happier than when sieving the ranks of the unusual. This Irish composer studied with A J Potter and Séoirse Bodley. He is a guitarist and has spent many years working for the Irish broadcaster RTÉ.

It is no surprise that a disc of his orchestral music should be the handiwork of Toccata Classics, here working with RTÉ Lyric fm. That they are first recordings is a given.

A Lay for a Light Year is overture in scale. Its cosmological subject matter is first announced in rolling and roiling brass gestures that curve and re-curve. It's a modernistic piece yet not as wild-eyed and feral as some. It inhabits worlds that variously connote later period Malcolm Arnold, Simpson's Symphonies 5-7 and Hovhaness's And god created great whales. The listener encounters rushing abrasion and this is sometimes at extreme high volume. Towards the close the brass find an overtone of triumph. Had this music been written at the time of Carl Sagan's 'Cosmos' series it would have been a natural choice as a backdrop.

The Violin Concerto is akin to the Berg in its approach to melody. The writing has a meditative lunar chill. The middle movement is a magically poised Mesto in which the gentlest swish of dissonance is threaded through by the solo violin's involuted dreaminess. In that sense it parallels the George Rochberg concerto. The third movement is a Vigoroso, belligerent and superbly recorded with marimba prominent and the violin solo recessed at times. The style of the solo amid a jungle of minutely calculated orchestral detail carries over from the Mesto. Credit to the composer for staying true to his star with a strikingly dithered patter of starkly quiet staccato writing along the way.

The Violin Concerto's adept soloist is Alan Smale, a native of Torquay in Devon. Smale also gave the world premiere of the concerto by Frank Corcoran (2012) as well as having recorded the concertos by Raymond Deane (Marco Polo 8.225106) and James Wilson with whom de Bromhead studied.

De Bromhead wrote his First Symphony in 1985. This is his Second and was premiered by the same forces as here on 22 January 2008. There are three movements, each sporting the word "Quasi ...":-

I Quasi Corrento
II Quasi Variazioni Mesti
III Quasi Toccata

The building blocks of Quasi Corrento are brassy fanfares but the whole symphony inhabits a chrome-vanadium world smacking of William Schuman's statuesque way with the declamatory. There are also faintly dissonant and elegiac American-sounding (Barber) episodes that provide contrast.

The disarmingly open and useful liner-notes are by the composer and are devoid of fluff.

I hope that RTÉ will license more of their radio tapes - the RTÉ series Composing the Island in 2016 passed by without a whisper beyond Eire. Time those broadcasts of orchestral wonders by Norman Hay and Ina Boyle found a CD home. I can think of few better places than Toccata. RTÉ Lyric fm have issued a two-CD set of rags and patches and tatters from that radio series - a nice souvenir but we need to hear whole works especially by the two figures I have mentioned.

De Bromhead is an interesting prospect and his music on this evidence encompasses neon-lit dream textures and imposingly statuesque brass writing. The music feels well organised and efficient.

Rob Barnett



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