Elisabetta Brusa (b. Milan, Italy, 3 April 1954) demonstrated prodigious musical talent from her earliest years, composing her first piece before the age of five and dozens more pieces by the age of twenty which she retained in memory until later mastering the art of music notation. Raised in a family with strong musical roots (her maternal great-grandfather led the Carlo Felice Opera in Genoa), from the start she strongly preferred creating rather than performing music at the piano, and cultivated a powerful passion for art and archaeology that was stimulated by extensive family travels in Europe and the Middle East.
From 1976 to 1981 she pursued composition courses in the UK at Dartington Hall conducted by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and from 1978 to 1985 studied periodically with Hans Keller in London. In 1980 she earned the Diploma di Composizione from the Conservatorio Statale di Musica Giuseppe Verdi, where she was a pupil of Bruno Bettinelli. Additional educational experience included composition studies with Hans Werner Henze and Gunther Schuller at the Tanglewood Music Center.
Since many of her teachers were strongly associated with the avant-garde, Elisabetta's affinity for tonal composition continuously met with considerable resistance. Only through the sympathetic tutelage of Hans Keller, whom she met at Dartington Hall at Devon in 1978, did she begin to realize her full artistic potential. Her talents came to dazzling fruition in a series of important works, including the cyclical "Nittemero" Symphony (1988), a synthesis of neotonal, minimalist, and traditional contrapuntal techniques; the profoundly moving Requiescat (1994), dedicated to the memory of Hans Keller; and Messidor, a "free and graceful fantasy" inspired by the literary and musical traditions stemming from A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Elisabetta has been the recipient of numerous honors, awards, and commissions, including The Washington International Competition for Composition for String Quartet (1982), a Fromm Foundation Fellowship, a Fulbright travel bursary, and three consecutive fellowships at the MacDowell Colony (1989–90). Among her mature works are scores for orchestra, various ensembles, and solo instruments which have been heard live and/or in radio and television broadcasts throughout Europe, North America, and Asia in performances by such distinguished ensembles as the BBC Philharmonic, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, and the Women's Philharmonic of San Francisco. Her orchestral music been recorded on the NAXOS label by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine under the baton of Fabio Mastrangelo.
Elisabetta has served on the composition faculties at the Conservatories of Vicenza, Mantua, and Brescia, and since 1985, has taught at the Conservatorio Statale di Musica Giuseppe Verdi in Milan, where she is a specialist in traditional orchestration and instrumentation. She is married to conductor Gilberto Serembe.
In her 1999 essay, "Musical Effects in Perspective," Elisabetta reflected on the aesthetic significance of historical time:
In a few thousand years or more, will it matter that Bach lived approximately a hundred years before Beethoven? If the Earth still exists and humanity with it, maybe all that will be remembered is that in the second half of the second millennium A. D. . . . there were composers who wrote music using mainly a language called tonality . . . in a different style from one another. Will it ever matter that Bach came before Beethoven?
Time is only relative and irrelevant.
Time makes a mockery of us all and, paraphrasing Molière, one can say that time has nothing to do with artistic values.