Fighting to save one’s home from a bushfire may seem a long way from the contemplative activity of composing music, but the two are inextricably linked for Margaret Brandman, whose Firestorm Symphony is a programmatic depiction of her experiences at Glenbrook in the lower Blue Mountains. This 16-minute work, performed by the Czech Republic’s Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra under Petr Vronsky, is the centrepiece an album bringing together nine of Brandman’s works.
The opening movement paints an Arcadian picture of birdsong and heat haze, interrupted by gathering wind and approaching fire. The palpable sense of foreboding draws one into the narrative, but then in a debatable decision Brandman skips a sonic depiction of the conflagration itself, and instead the second movement goes straight to the desolation of the aftermath, with swelling strings and aching woodwinds. The final movement brims with the optimism of regeneration, but mostly in the slightly muted, pastel-hued manner that characterises much of her work. Among the other pieces Jucaro Rhumba D’Amor for violin (Vit Muzik) and piano (Lucie Kaucka) has an especially ravishing melody over its lilting Latin rhythm.