Sneha Girap (Editor)

Luca Francesconi

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Name  Luca Francesconi

Role  Composer
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Albums  Etymo / Da Capo / A Fuoco / Animus
Similar People  Susanna Malkki, Ivan Fedele, Ensemble InterContemporain, Azio Corghi, Luciano Berio

Luca Francesconi and the many issues of music today

Luca Francesconi (born 17 March 1956 in Milan) is an Italian composer. He studied at the Milan Conservatory, then with Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luciano Berio.


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Early years

Luca Francesconi was born in Milan. His father was a painter who edited Il Corriere dei piccoli and conceived Il Corriere dei ragazzi, while his mother, an advertiser, created a number of famous advertising campaigns. Francesconi spent his early years in QT8, a working class quarter in Milan that rose up alongside a huge pile of post-war rubble which would later become Monte Stella. At the age of five, won over by a concert by Svjatoslav Richter, he began to learn the piano. Although he was accepted into the junior high school section of the city's conservatory six years later, he instinctively pulled out, thinking that it was too academic and conventional. Instead, even though he had in the meantime moved with his family to a more central quarter of Milan, Francesconi opted to attend the junior high school in QT8. In this way from a very early age his relationship with music and life in general took on a course of responsibility and constant choice, of research and direct experimentation.


We need to profoundly rethink and filter in a determined way the enormously rich potential that has been elaborated in the past and to use it for expressive purposes.

Francesconi returned to the Conservatory of Milan in 1974, while he was still attending the Berchet Classical Languages High School, and explored the length and breadth of the musical landscape, taking an interest in every possible dimension of sound. He played in jazz and rock groups as well as in classical concerts, he worked as a session man in recording studios, and he composed music for theatre, cinema, advertising, and television. These were all rewarding experiences, not least from an economic point of view, but they were not enough. He realised that a truly living language, while looking at the present, draws its lifeblood from its roots. The time had come for him to dig into the tradition of music to which he belonged. The Milan Conservatory was opening more and more space to contemporary music so Francesconi enrolled in the composition course conducted by Azio Corghi. "From him I learnt the trade, the fundamentals, counterpoint and those things, professional seriousness and open-mindedness." In the meantime he continued to explore electronic music and in 1977 took time out to immerse himself in jazz at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

A student of Karlheinz Stockhausen

The mountain is in front of us and it is necessary to pass over it, with enormous force and patience. It's not enough just to contemplate it nor to sneak by it via secondary paths much less go backwards claiming that the mountain is not there.

Donnerstag aus Licht went on stage at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan in 1981. Stockhausen is a historical reference point: Francesconi admired him for his extraordinary organisational consistency, for his tireless search for a linguistic unity. He was also deeply struck by the visionary quality of this initial opera. He wanted to observe the composer at work so he enrolled in the intensive course that Stockhausen held in Rome that same year. "From him I learnt rigor, at first imbibing it by osmosis, and then demythologising it."[7]

Meeting and collaboration with Luciano Berio

Luciano didn't talk much about the more 'technical' and delicate aspects of his work as a composer. I remember that when he least expected it, I would fire questions at him point blank, hoping to pick up some tips. His replies were like enigmas. They had something sacral about them and they required divining rituals to decode them. With Berio Francesconi studied above all in the field, just like the workshop artisans of old, acting as his assistant from 1981 to 1984. He worked directly on the score of La vera storia and participated in the production as rehearsal pianist and second conductor/substitute maestro. In 1984 he collaborated with the composer in the rewriting of Monteverdi's Orfeo. He was also present with Berio at Tanglewood where he attended one of his famous summer courses.

Activities, works, research

In 1984 three of Francesconi's pieces, including Passacaglia, for large orchestra (1982), were selected for the Gaudeamus International Composers Award in Amsterdam. This first important recognition on the international scene created a useful tie with the Dutch music scene and laid the foundation for further commissions. Meanwhile, in Italy, thanks to a commission from the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, Francesconi had the opportunity to seriously put into practice for the first time his idea of a "polyphony of languages": Suite 1984. The polyphony that I have in mind hasn't got anything to do with the "postmodern" or collage, the exotic pastiche, the provincial chinoiserie of our grandparents (but also of Stockhausen and certain pop groups). Instead, it is a free fusion of ideas in a compact and linguistically very solid body that reveals its profound energies in its inner profundity and not in an exterior heterogeneity. Energies that come from the earth, from popular culture, from ancient African and Oriental cultures. "In 1984 the Teatro Lirico in Cagliari presented a quartet made up of the pianist and composer Franco D'Andrea together with the group Africa Djolé led by the master percussionist Fode Youla from Guinea. The idea was then conceived that the music of this group be recreated in symphonic form (Suite 1984) by the 28 year-old Luca Francesconi for a performance by the theatre's orchestra under the direction of Francesconi himself, a recent product of rigorous musical studies, assistant to Luciano Berio and 'jazz student of D'Andrea', as he used to like to define himself. The concert attracted experts from all over the place anxious to hear novelties and promising syncretisms of various musical civilisations, and it was a triumph." "Orchestra, African percussionists and jazz quintet: the choice of instrumental make-up itself contained in an explicit manner the generative nucleus of one of the principal aesthetic motors of the music of Luca Francesconi: the tendency to place alongside one another, following the rules of contrast and fusion, sounds and languages of highly diverse origins."


Francesconi's first record, an LP recorded in the United States, contained Viaggiatore insonne, on a text by Sandro Penna. "Francesconi's attitude as a composer is in fact similar to that of a tireless traveller, who explores linguistic spaces in search of their ever shifting confines, and who conducts an etiological study to determine the confines between noise and sound, between instinct and reason." The new piece Vertige, for string orchestra, was performed in Strasbourg. Francesconi composed various works for ensemble which were performed in Cagliari (Onda sonante, for eight instruments, commissioned by the Nieuw Ensemble; conductor: Ed Spanjaard (1985)), Paris (Tracce, for flute (1986)), Città di Castello (Da capo, for nine instruments (1988)), Middelburg (Finta-di-nulla, for soprano and nineteen instruments on a text by Umberto Fiori; Xenakis Ensemble; conductor: Diego Masson; and soprano: Marie Duisit (1991)), and Brussels (Encore/Da capo, for 9 instruments; Ictus Ensemble, conducted by the composer (1995)). In 1984 Casa Ricordi became Francesconi's publisher and since then has published all his works. In 1985 he was invited to the Festival Musica ‘900 in Trent for a series of public conversations with Franco Donatoni. This meeting proved extremely important; talking with the great Verona composer, both in their public conversations and during train trips together, Francesconi felt that he reached a solution for a number of unresolved problems. Plot in fiction, dedicated to Franco Donatoni, was in many ways the happy outcome of this experience.

Plot in Fiction

The really difficult thing is to write works with a rich and articulated complex of meanings and events: works, that is, that are capable of assuming a linguistic structure, of being a world (Mahler!), but whose complexity is transparent.

Plot in Fiction, for oboe and cor anglais or clarinet and chamber group (1986), constructs its sonoric line around key notes within a rigorous formal framework. "The point here is to find the "plot" in the "fiction", the narrative line that twists and turns through the complexity and intricacy of a "mass of everyday symbols". What's involved is an architecture that guides the listener within the composition: the search for a compositional transparency (without, however, ever slipping into simplicity; the means employed leave unaltered the quality of the composer's thought), based on pure energy, directly perceptible, without any need to exhibit the mechanisms underlying it. The piece was performed for the first time at the Festival Musica '900 in Trent by Ensemble Musique Oblique under the direction of Sandro Gorli; the soloist was Diego Dini Ciacci.


At this point I would say that it is no longer possible to talk of a language devoid of code or morphogenesis, i.e. of a language that comes into being while the aesthetic event is being produced. It's necessary to also come to terms with a substratum, with what I call semantic pressure, that is with history.

Mambo, for solo piano, is Francesconi's most jazz-like piece, and it reveals clearly his search for an ever uneasy equilibrium between sonoric materials, gathered in their primitive state, and the evocative power of history, from which the composer cannot remove himself. In the piece there is an overlap of a rhythmic ostinato in a low register, a series of ascending-descending diatonic lines, and, finally, a sequence of pounding 4-note chords. In this continual 'friction of contraries' resides the aesthetic motor of Francesconi's music as well as the powerful charge of sonoric seduction that his works carry. Francesconi exploits as a precious resource the capacity for intense analysis developed in Western culture. He takes a shared musical reference and dissects it remorselessly until he lays bare further possibilities of development, of transformation. Wielding its 'semantic pressure' as though it were a picklock, he presses further and further inwards, towards the energy-bearing roots of sound.

AGON, centre for music research and experimentation

It's important for composers to confront the use of computers face-on; even empirically, at a basic level. To search for, study, and promote new means through which to communicate with them, new interfaces. It's important for them to help to lead mankind back to the centre of his machines.

In 1990 Francesconi founded AGON with two great utopian visions in mind. The first was that it is still possible and desperately important to work together, cooperatively, imagining projects to realise together with others, to exchange experiences, ideas. AGON came into being as an organism with a public identity: "it is not my or your studio"; it aspires to be a place where it's possible to talk, meet, and not just pursue one's own interest. The second utopian idea was to start from below and not from high-tech; to depart from the musical needs of composers with a view to stimulating a different relationship, simpler, "less terroristic", between real musicians and machines. Handling electronics also serves, according to Francesconi, to recuperate a physical, auditive approach to musical composition, which, if limited to paper and pencil, runs the risk of becoming too speculative, weakening the direct relationship with the sonoric material. AGON has for many years been one of the most active centres in Italy for music research and production.

Riti neurali

Complexity is always a question of quality, not quantity. What really matters is transparency in an overall density. This means that I should only make use of a particularly articulated syntax if I really need to, or, in other words, only if I've got particularly articulated things to say.

Composed in 1991, for violin and eight instruments, Riti neurali is Francesconi's third study on memory. Like many of his works, it develops the material on multiple levels, pursuing labyrinthine paths. Nonetheless, its clearly delineated textures offer the listener unmistakable points of reference. The soloist establishes a vast array of relations with the small orchestra (guiding it, allowing himself to be guided, contradicting it, ignoring it, etc.), at the same time assuming various positions himself ... The complexity of the counterpoint arises out of the simultaneity of the various positions. "There are things that evoke other things, or that acquire meaning in relation to other things. We are subjected, in a certain sense, to a historically determined perceptive destiny. Whether we want to be or not. The illusion of the tabula rasa, of pure transparency, is not enough. Probably it's better to take account of this perceptive problem right from the start and to consider it one of the compositional parameters." The work was commissioned by Radio France and the world premiere took place in Paris on 14 January 1992: Asko Ensemble; conductor: Denis Cohen, and soloist: Irvine Arditti. While a series of performances followed on from one another in Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, and Antwerp, an extensive portrait at the Venice Biennale, in 1993, definitively consolidated Francescon's reputation in Italy as well: the Nieuw Ensemble Amsterdam, Arditti and Ensemble Modern (with the newly commissioned Plot II) joined forces in a single concert dedicated to the composer's music at the Teatro La Fenice.


The great challenge is to maintain in the composer the two levels, the compositional and the emotive, and to ensure that these continually charge each other with responsibility for the form of the work up until in the end they arrive at a balanced result.

Between 1993 and 1994 Francesconi worked and taught in Paris in the hyper-technological workshop Ircam, where "you model sound with your hands". On commission from Ircam, he carried out computer analysis on sounds and their behaviour right down to their roots, their etymon, to realise "one of the most convincing and at the same time impetuous musical equivalents of the writing of Baudelaire, striving with clarity of mind to achieve a secure control over the insidious relationship between words and music." The piece is based almost entirely on Baudelaire's poem Le Voyage, of which at two points we hear the soprano declaim two key fragments: "Dites, qu'avez-vous vu?" (Speak, what have you seen?). The computer analysis of this question constitutes the DNA that structures the entire piece, from the microstructure to the macroform. The result is a multi-levelled organism that in 25 minutes lays out its basic material (phonemes, instrumental particles, electronic transformation) and then proceeds to join it all together in increasingly complex structures. Everything begins with a question on the origin of meaning (in Greek: "etymon"). What is there before the word, and what models language? And finally, what allows us to transcend language? In the beginning there is pre-language, its premises. Etymo, a work furnished with huge white wings, starts out with the primordial mumblings of language, in phonemes. Nothing is intelligible, alliterations that roll off and slip away (or fluctuate) and an orchestra that appears suspended, as if it were waiting. These phonetic and musical particles aggregate in a contrapuntal overlapping which in the end explodes in an ocean of profundity from which the first words arise. An important example of how Francesconi employs electronics in a masterly way to broaden the expressive range and colour of instruments. The physicality of the performance remains at the centre of the work, but the electronics helps it to reach an extreme expressive intensity. A fuoco (1995) is Francesconi's fourth study on memory; Animus, for trombone and computer (1996), was performed in Paris, while the London Sinfonietta took Plot in fiction to Santa Cecilia in Rome (1996).


The effort to formalise creative thought and thought as a whole is extremely important for composers as well, but by the same token the "analogical" and qualitative approach of the artist helps to play down their relationship with technological instruments and above all to reaffirm the impossibility of discretising, quantifying human experience; the impossibility of converting into binary code and sending via fibre optic cable the sum total of existence, the totality of aesthetic experience, of the body, of affection, of the world.

On 17 January 2000 Riccardo Muti conducted Wanderer at the Scala in Milan. "This voyager is man who, after conducting an inventory of the generations that have preceded him, takes with him only the bare essentials to set out on a path towards the immensity of possible spaces. At the dawn of the new millennium Luca Francesconi frees himself from the crushing weight of tradition, especially that generated by serialism and its worshipers. After extensive research into tempo, into tempi, one might say, into sonoric texture, the composer here explores a type of language that favours narration.

Cobalt, Scarlet: Two Colours of Dawn

Music is closer than any other form of expression to that nucleus of "existential energy" that lives deep within us. 2000 was also the year of Cobalt, Scarlet: Two Colors of Dawn. "A single movement of twenty three minutes for large orchestra divided into parallel - at times counterpoised – groups begins with a pianissimo of metallic gleams that emanate alternately from the two sides of the stage. Then, other percussion instruments, wind instruments and brass instruments join in in a subdued manner, developing, transforming planes of volume and colour. But it is an unexpected metallic accent exploding like a burst of profundity that fills the auditorium not so much with clamour as with presence, rapture." "With this composition Luca Francesconi reached a turning point in his career, enriching his exploration into the heart of sonoric material with greater sensibility and emotivity. In this way his music acceded to a broader artistic dimension, that of a harmonious encounter of technique and psychology in the broadest sense of the term.

Music theatre

From 1985 to the present Luca Francesconi has composed eight works of a theatrical stamp, from Scene, on a text by Umberto Fiori, to the chamber opera In Ostaggio, from Lips, Eyes Bang, for actress/singer, twelve instruments and live audio/video, to the video-opera Striaz. Ballata, commissioned by the Théâtre de La Monnaie in Brussels/di Bruxelles and with stage direction by Achim Freyer, was staged in 2002.


My idea was to turn over a new leaf, to free myself so to speak from the 20th century. I wanted to use all the expressive densities that that century conceded to me, and for me it was a kind of synthesis of the musical experiences that had struck me most.

In 1994 Luca Francesconi had realised an opera for radio (and eventual winner of the Prix Italia), Ballata del rovescio del mondo, on a text by Umberto Fiori; in 1996 his continuing, close collaboration with the Milan poet resulted in his third work for music theatre, Ballata, drawn from Samuel Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Divided into two acts, Ballata makes use of a large orchestra with an enlarged percussion section; on the right of the stage is an instrumental ensemble inspired by Gypsy orchestras, while four female choirs distributed at the four angles of the auditorium "function as walls that open and close towards the irrational, memory, towards flashbacks". Electronic sounds elaborated at Ircam contribute to the spatial disorientation. Originally, for the role of the ancient mariner, Francesconi had thought of Sting, with whom he had recorded the first song of the opera Day After Day. In the end, however, the collaboration did not eventuate for reasons of language (Sting did not feel up to singing and acting in Italian), but the idea remained of a present-day narrator who, like the ancient mariner, is condemned to wander around the globe in search of someone to whom to recount his incredible adventures, from shipwreck to the glaciers of the South Pole, from the scorching sun of the equator to the appearance of monsters and a phantomatic sailing ship. The temporal plane is split: on stage the ancient mariner tells his story and at the same time he appears as a young man in the midst of a storm. Various compositional techniques follow on from one another, from early expressionism onwards, integrated with other traditions, like folk music. "Luca Francesconi develops an orchestral writing that is inventive, sensual and seductive all at the same time, deftly integrating electronic resources elaborated by Ircam. But, much more, he makes masterful use of an armoury of ardent vocality that is seasoned but anything but worn-out – from Brecht's spoken song to Monteverdi's madrigal, passing from the songs of English Baroque opera to all the immortals of Italian lyric opera, from Verdi to Berio, of whom he was a student."

Buffa opera

Who said that music today necessarily has to create angst? It's enough to think that Albanese used to come running onto the stage pursued by a cigarette two and half metres tall.

Buffa opera, on a text by Stefano Benni, went on stage at the Piccolo Teatro di Milano in 2002. It featured Antonio Albanese on stage for the whole opera as actor/singer alongside the chorus and the Buffa orchestra, a fully-fledged character, conducted by the composer himself. Linking up with the tradition of opera buffa, Buffa opera is an immediately accessible piece of comic music theatre which filled the Piccolo Teatro for thirty evenings before being revived at the Teatro Morlacchi in Perugia. "It was not difficult to imagine that Stefano Benni's text, with its surreal metaphors, would prove so enjoyable. And it was just as easy to predict that the highly inventive 'libretto' would be greatly enhanced by the likeability, comicality and irony of a superb actor like Antonio Albanese. What was less obvious, however, was that the music of Luca Francesconi would prove just as appealing. Not because the Milan musician doesn't have the track record of a thoroughbred composer but because on perusing his catalogue – a very extensive one for an under-50 – one is struck by the presence of pieces characterised by a highly dramatic temper, if not by an out-and-out tragic intensity. Instead, in Buffa Opera, a work in which the world of today is seen from the partial but acute perspective of insects – be they cockroaches, bees, butterflies or spiders – Francesconi was able to use a vast array of stylistically characterised objects (from jazz to avant-garde, from the musical to the canzonetta) to send up the music of today and the way that it is consumed".

Commissioned by the Holland Festival, Gesualdo Considered as a Murderer, on a libretto by Vittorio Sermonti, was performed for the first time in Amsterdam in June 2004. It was directed by Giorgio Barberio Corsetti. "The overall work, ably supported by remarkable performances by Davide Damiani in the role of Gesualdo, Eberhard Franscesco Lorenz in the role of his Iago-like servant and especially Alda Caiello in the role of his wife's chambermaid, revealed a highly passionate motivation – a demonstration of very mature theatre on the part of a composer with a genuine talent for drama".


Don't run the risk of coming, unless you're prepared to be forced to call into question what you do and what you are. This is a violent, blasphemous opera made up of raw sexual instincts and total absence of compassion. The only two characters on stage are the personification of cynicism; they have vowed never to love again.

2011 saw the world premiere at the Scala in Milan of an opera that has since been taking the world by storm: 45 performances in three different full productions and in concert form. Luca Francesconi's eighth music theatre work, jointly commissioned by Teatro alla Scala, Wiener Festwochen and Ircam, is entitled Quartett and is based on a text by Heiner Müller drawn in its turn from Choderlos de Lactose's Les liaisons dangereuses. The title is in German, as in Müller's work, while the libretto has been elaborated by the composer himself in English from the original text: "Because the English language, even in its most beautiful and elegant form, is by now a kind of Esperanto. And because it is the language that best fits in with the syncretisms of European music, jazz, folk, popular music and electronics that have long been present in my scores". The opera has a single act, thirteen scenes, and lasts a total of an hour and twenty minutes. Only two characters on stage, a small orchestra in the orchestra pit, a large orchestra and choir off-stage (available as a recording effected at the Scala in Milan), and electronics (Studio Ircam, Serge Lemouton: live and pre-recorded sounds). The stage direction at the Scala was entrusted to Alex Olle of La Fura dels Baus, who concentrated the action in a huge box suspended twelve metres above the stage, projecting onto the full breadth of the backdrop videos representing the outside world. Allison Cook, mezzo-soprano, interpreted the Marquise de Merteuil, alternating with Sinead Mulhern; Robin Adams, baritone, was Vicomte de Valmont. The conductor was Susanna Mälkki. This production was revived in 2012 in Vienna (Wiener FestWochen: conductor: Peter Rundel), in 2013 at the Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam (the opening of the Holland Festival; conductor: Susanna Mälkki) and at the Opera di Lille (Ensemble Ictus: conductor: Georges-Elie Octors), and in 2014 in Lisbon (Gulbenkian Foundation: conductor: Susanna Mälkki). Quartett was performed in concert form at the Cité de la Musique in Paris by Ensemble Intercontemporain (March 2013). A first new production was staged in Porto and Strasburg, once again with Allison Cook and Robin Adams, and with Remix Ensemble under the direction of Brad Lubman. The stage direction, scenery and costumes were by Nuno Carinhas and the lighting by Nuno Meira (Casa da Musica in Porto on 24 September 2013 and Festival Musica in Strasburg on 28 September 2013). The opera was produced again in London by the Royal Opera House in a coproduction with the Opéra di Rouen and the London Sinfonietta, from 18 to 28 June 2014, with stage direction by John Fulljames. Two casts alternated for the ten performances (Leigh Melrose and Kristin Chávez; and Mark Stone and Angelica Voje) on the metallic structures of a post-atomic bunker realised by Soutra Gilmour, with lighting by Bruno Poet and videos by Ravi Deepres projected onto tattered screens dropped from above in the restrained atmosphere of the Linbury Studio. Under the structures warm and dim lights lit up the London Sinfonietta, conducted by Andrew Gourlay. In 2015 the Malmö Opera presented a fourth production. It was directed by Stefan Johansson, with scenery by Jan Lundberg. Kirstin Chavez interpreted the Marquise de Merteuil and Christian Miedl Vicomte de Valmont; the conductor was Ralf Kircher. The La Fura del Baus production was performed again in Buenos Aires, Colón Theater, in June 2015, with Allison Cook and Robin Adams, director Alex Olle, conductor Brad Lubman. "The press wasn't indifferent at all: "La Fura dels Baus strikes in America as well" (El País); "An high voltage opera" (Clarín); "To the limits of the opera" (La Nación); "Portrait of a crippled bourgeoisie" (Página 12). "Quartett: a wonderful and yet very demanding opera" (Ámbito Financiero).


"Heiner Müller's idea centres on the relationship of a couple: a man and a woman enclosed in a room. They evidently have a past, as well as a turbulent present; there is a kind of façade that clearly serves to hide certain things, but it is torn apart by the conflict that lies behind it and that explodes in a fierce, indeed cruel manner. It is clear that something sinister lies in the background: manipulation, betrayal, jealousy. This is not a 19th century opera, but rather an authentic multi-media experience: two orchestras, plus a choir. There is a chamber orchestra, agile and quick, that produces an initial perceptive short circuit: we hear a number of things from very close up, as if we were peeking into the protagonists' private life. Then there is an intermediate space, which is the space of dreams, in which the sound begins to become softer. Finally, there is the additional space of 'out there', which is actually beyond the theatre: a large orchestra and a large choir that are elsewhere and that are reproduced in the theatre by technological means thereby creating a different time and space. A room, almost a cell, a prison, is suspended in mid-air. So we see the characters move and act like insects in a terrarium, as they transform, exchange roles, impersonate a kind of tiny theatre all of their own, change masks. At the end of this dramaturgic construction there remains only the woman, leaving us to intuit an idea of salvation."

The Venice Biennale

Today's semantic dictionary can put us in contact with other cultures, embolden us to recuperate magmatic sonorities. The Tarantola del Salento, the songs of Sardinia, African polyphonies… Ethnic music can open deep landscapes of the soul, obscure regions, forgotten loci of consciousness. It's necessary to be courageous, and, like Tarkovsky's Stalker, venture to where ferocious energies lie, in their primitive state. Not "stravaganti" (strange) but "extra vagans" (wandering beyond) towards the incandescent core of origins

From 2008 to 2011 Francesconi was the artistic director of the Venice Music Biennale. His imprint was immediately recognisable in the themes of the four festivals ("Roots/Future", "The body of sound", "Don Giovanni and the man of stone" and "Mutants") and it broadened out further in the conception of the festival as the ideal place "to seek new and different forms of perception and attention." Beyond the confines of concert halls and theatres, listeners freely chose how to approach the music, which was disseminated through the city as though on a stage in movement, accessible and without limits. This was the basic idea behind Exit, the celebratory evening/night that brought each of the four festivals to a close, transforming the Teatro alle Tese into a distended human body (Exit 02), "an experience with variable geometry, a new way of living space, sound and time from sunset to dawn", or inviting the public to take a boat towards the Island of San Michele to pay homage to Stravinsky in the form of three clarinet pieces at his tomb and to then participate in a banquet that evoked the finale of Don Giovanni. Don Giovanni was also at the heart of one of the most famous experiments in this four-year period: "Palazzo Pisani, home of the B. Marcello Conservatory, is the site chosen for the staging of Don Giovanni a Venezia, conceived by Francesconi himself. For this initiative, which has been defined as an opera-labyrinth, the public is asked not just to exercise its sensibility but also its intelligence, so as to try to create a kind of gap between space and time in which music can be inserted. After scrapping the old structure of the concert, Francesconi borrows three key scenes from Mozart's original – the duel between Don Giovanni and the Commendatore, the seduction of Zerlina and the death of Don Giovanni – and puts them on stage cyclically, in three different locations within the ancient Venetian palace, inserting in the loggie, palace rooms and courtyards another eight original pieces commissioned from contemporary composers. The spectator, as if he were to enter into a huge gallery and to decide autonomously how and what to look at, will have before his eyes a plurality of musical, scenic, theatrical and visual events to combine, putting aside the perceptive habits of space and time."


This thing which has happened to me is unique much more than rare. In any case, I think it important to draw it to the attention of the readers of the Giornale della Musica, genuine music lovers in Italy (another rarity). I would not speak about an exquisitely private matter if it did not provide an opportunity to stimulate reflection and perhaps even a debate on the disastrous state in which culture in Italy finds itself, in particular musical culture. I have resigned from the State Conservatory.

Luca Francesconi has taught for twenty five years in Italy's conservatories and at the University of Ohio, in Rotterdam and in Strasburg. He has held master classes throughout Europe and the world, from Japan to the United States, from China to Canada. Currently he is teaching composition at the Musikhögskolan (Lund University) in Malmö, where he directs the composition department.

Other collaborations

I learnt a huge amount from the way Ronconi worked on a text, an out-and-out excavation down to the deepest level.

2000 marked two other important experiences. The Piccolo Teatro in Milan commissioned him to write the music for Calderón de la Barca's pièce La vida es sueño, with stage direction by Luca Ronconi, who in that very year took over the direction of the theatre from Giorgio Strehler. He wrote the music for Paolo Rosa's film Il mnemonista, produced by Studio Azzurro.


Two important international symphonic commissions mark the year.

Duende. The Dark Notes

A dangerous descent into the infernal depths of the dark notes, to rediscover a primordial force in perhaps the most history-laden instrument of the West.

Written for the extraordinary soloist Leila Josefowicz, this concerto for violin and orchestra was jointly commissioned by SR Swedish Radio and the BBC Proms. Performed in Stockholm in February 2014, in Turin in May 2014 and in June 2015 for the BBC Proms. «It was well worth the wait. As the title suggests, Francesconi's concerto takes the idea of the Duende, the dark, demonic spirit of flamenco, as its starting point, but the music never seems simplistically pictorial or programmatic. Instead, with the violin as protagonist, the five movements (the last two merged seamlessly together) evoke a threatening world of extremes, of heightened emotions and dramatically contrasted colours and registers. The orchestra weaves febrile webs around solo writing whose cracked arpeggios and steep scales manage to be more or less traditionally virtuosic within musical contexts that are anything but conventional, especially in the ferocious cadenza at the heart of the final movement. Josefowicz's playing was immensely committed and astoundingly vivid, and it emerged in even sharper, more subtle focus in the Radio 3 recording, which also resolved many of the textures that had seemed rather blurred in the hall.»

Duende was ranked number 6 in the Guardian's list of the top 10 classical concerts and operas of 2015

Dentro non ha tempo

"Curious, that title, 'Dentro non ha tempo'. It can be read in three ways: as the temporal suspension that someone who dies leaves in those that have loved him/her. As a reference to the great musical tradition from which Luciana came, the Abbado family: a homage to the past that has no time. Finally, an allusion to the form of the composition, based on three bars of Mozart's Don Giovanni dilated 29 times. Like the year of Luciana's birth, 1929.

Commissioned by the Teatro alla Scala for the Strauss cycle, Dentro non ha tempo, for large orchestra, is dedicated to Luciana Abbado Pestalozza, Francesconi's deceased friend who, with her sensibility and organisational capacity, played a crucial role in the development of contemporary music in Italy. The piece was performed at the Scala on 14 June 2014 under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Vertical Invader

Vertical Invader, concerto grosso for reed quintet and orchestra. On May 23 world premiere in Amsterdam, Concertgebouw, Calefax Reed Quintet: Oliver Boekhoorn (oboe), Ivar Berix (clarinet), Raaf Hekkema (saxophone), Jelte Althuis (bass clarinet) and Alban Wesly (bassoon). Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, conductor Osmo Vänskä. The 'vertical invader' to which the title refers is a metaphor for a connection that is true and profoundly desired - as opposed to the false relationships presented by mass media - a synchronicity that in music is as perennially elusive as it is in the world.

Macchine in echo

On October 2, the WDR Sinfonieorchester Cologne performed the world premiere of Luca Francesconi's Macchine in Echo at the Philharmonie in Cologne under the direction of Peter Rundel in collaboration with the piano duo GrauSchumacher. The piece was commissioned by the WDR, the Strasbourg MUSICA festival, and Wiener Konzerthaus. (The Strasbourg MUSICA festival presented the French premiere on 3 October at the closing concert of the festival's 33rd edition.) "When two pianos are involved, we can imagine them as two, frighteningly powerful, fiendish machines. With this piece, in addition to the two pianos, there's also a symphonic orchestra: I love the play of mirrors and the spell-binding multiplications of two pianos in unison with an orchestra. It's an infinite source of meanings: meanings that I need to find, in spite of the destructuration of reality all around us. In a small gesture towards this powerful resistance, I have incorporated a brief homage to Luciano Berio's Concerto for Two Pianos, one of the pieces that have left a profound mark on my life."

Bread, water and salt

On October 3 at the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, Sir Antonio Pappano together with the soprano Pumeza Matshikiza and the Orchestra and Choir of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, performed the world premiere of Bread, Water and Salt on texts by Nelson Mandela. This piece by Francesconi has been chosen to inaugurate the Orchestra di Santa Cecilia's 2015-16 concert season and will be dedicated by the orchestra to Ludwig van Beethoven. Francesconi says: "This piece was planned together with the 9th Simphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, in order to create a link between the brotherhood idea of Beethoven and Schiller and what it may means today. We've chosen Mandela because of his simple adherence to the spirituality of the body, of the bread, of the sofference that can be defeated. Of the goodness, that may seem a worn out common place to us, but for the people who have nothing left, not even dignity, it is the part of the human being that may save them, that may save us. It may defeat the cold cynicism that perverts our relationships. So here comes the brotherhood: all these words, despised in politics and in the media, may really lead us to happiness".

Works, editions and recordings

  • I Quartetto, per strings, 1977
  • Passacaglia per great orchestra, 1982
  • Concertante per guitar and ensemble,Tanglewood 1982
  • Viaggiatore insonne per soprano and cinque strumenti (text by Sandro Penna), 1983
  • Notte per mezzo-soprano and 19 instruments (text by Sandro Penna), 1983–1984
  • Suite 1984 per orchestra, African percussionists and jazz quintet with the Orchestra of the Ente Lirico di Cagliari, the Franco D'Andrea's band and Africa Djolé from Ivory Coast, directed by the composer, 1984
  • Finta-di-nulla per soprano and 19 instruments (text by Umberto Fiori), 1985
  • Onda sonante for 8 instruments, 1985
  • Vertige per string orchestra, 1985
  • Da capo for 9 instruments, 1985–1986
  • Encore/Da capo for 9 instruments, 1985–1995
  • Impulse II per clarinet, violin e piano, 1985, 1995
  • Al di là dell'oceano famoso, per 8 solo mixed voices, Netherland Radio Chamber Choir, 1985
  • Secondo quartetto (Mondriaan Quartet)
  • Tracce, per flute, 1985-1987
  • Plot in fiction per bassoon, English horn and 11 instruments, 1986
  • Respiro per trombone solo, 1987
  • Trama per saxophone and orchestra, 1987
  • Mambo, per pianoforte solo, 1987
  • Attesa per reed quartet, 1988
  • La voce, folk song per soprano and 13 instruments (text by Umberto Fiori), 1988
  • Aeuia per baritono and 11 instruments (based on a text by di Jacopone da Todi), 1989
  • Les barricades mystérieuses per flauto and orchestra, 1989
  • Piccola trama per saxophone and 8 instruments, 1989
  • Richiami II - 1° study on memory, 1989–1992
  • Memoria per orchestra, 1990
  • Secondo Concerto per basano and chamber orchestra, 1991
  • Mittel per five moving bands, 1991
  • Riti neurali, 3° study on memory per violin e 8 instruments, 1991
  • Islands concerto per piano and chamber orchestra, 1992
  • Miniature per 16 instruments, 1992
  • Voci per soprano, violin and magnetic tape (text by Umberto Fiori), 1992
  • Aria per wind octet, 1993
  • Plot II per saxophone and 15 instruments, 1993
  • Risonanze d'Orfeo, suite per wind orchestra from'Orfeo di Claudio Monteverdi, 1993
  • Trama II per clarinet, orchestra and live electronics, 1993
  • Terzo quartetto "Mirrors" per strings, Arditti Quartet, De Singel Antwerpen, 1994
  • Ballata del rovescio del mondo, radio-opera on texts by Umberto Fiori, 1994
  • Etymo per soprano, chamber orchestra andlive electronic, from Charles Baudelaire, commission by IRCAM per soprano, Ensemble InterContemporain, conductor Pascal Rophé, soprano Luisa Castellani, Klangregie by the composer,1994
  • A fuoco - 4° study on memory per guitar and ensemble, 1995
  • Animus per trombone and live electronics, 1995–1996
  • Inquieta limina. Un omaggio a Berio per ensemble with accordion, 1996
  • Venti Radio-Lied, radiofilms, texts by Umberto Fiori, with Moni Ovadia e Phillis Blanford1996–1997
  • Sirene/Gespenster, Heathen Oratorio per female quire in four cantorie, brasses, percussions and electronics, 1996–1997
  • Striaz, video-opera per 4 female quires and electronic, production Mittelfest/Video: Studio Azzurro, 1996
  • Ballata, opera, 1996–1999, text by Umberto Fiori from The Rhyme of an Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, commission by Théâtre de la Monnaie di Bruxelles, conductor Kazushi Ono per la stage director Achim Freyer
  • Respondit, due madrigals by Carlo Gesualdo transcripted and revised per 5 instruments with an electronic spacing, 1997
  • Lips, Eyes Bang, per actress/singer, 12 instruments, audio e video in real time, Amsterdam, Nieuw Ensemble, AGON, Studio Azzurro, STEIM, voice Phyllis Blandford, 1998.
  • Memoria II per orchestra, 1998
  • Wanderer per great orchestra, January 2000 Teatro alla Scala, Milano conductor Riccardo Muti, Filarmonica della Scala
  • Cobalt, Scarlet. Two Colours of Dawn per grande orchestra, 1999–2000
  • Terre del Rimorso, (finished in 2001), commissione d'État francese per soli, coro e orchestra, per il Festival di Strasburgo, 6 ottobre 2001, SWR Symphonie Orchester e Vokalensemble Stuttgart, direttore Péter Eötvös, 2000-2001
  • Aria Novella, per double quartet, Parigi, Ensemble Itinéraire, 2001
  • Let me Bleed, Requiem per Carlo Giuliani per mixed quire a cappella, on texts by Attilio Bertolucci, 2001 Swedish Radio Choir, SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart, RSO Stuttgart, Eötvös
  • Buffa opera texts by Stefano Benni, singer and actor Antonio Albanese, 2002
  • Controcanto, ensemble of 10 to 25 instruments, world premiere in Bruxelles, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Ensemble Ictus, conductor Georges-Elie Octors, 2003
  • Cello concerto "Rest" Quartetto d'archi di Torino, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, Pierre Boulez, Roberto Abbado
  • Gesualdo Considered as a Murderer, opera, libretto by Vittorio Sermonti, 2004
  • Quarto Quartetto I voli di Niccolò, string quartet, commission by Paganiniana 2004, Genova, to Cesare Mazzonis, Arditti Quartet, 2004
  • Kubrick's Bone, per cimbalom and ensemble, 2005
  • Accordo reed quintet, Calefax, 2005
  • Body Electric, per violino and guitar rig e doppio ensemble, Amsterdam, Muziekgebouw, Orkest de Volharding e Doelen Ensemble, conductor Jussi Jaatinen, soloist Irvine Arditti, 2006
  • Sea Shell per great chorus, on a text by Alceo (translated by Salvatore Quasimodo). Swedish Radio Choir, Stoccolma, 2006
  • Da capo II, per 8 instruments, Settimane Musicali di Stresa, Ensemble Bit20, conductor J. Stockhammer, 2007
  • Animus II, per viola e live electronics, Parigi, Ircam Espace de projection, Festival Agora, soloist Garth Knox, commission by Françoise e Jean-Philippe 2007
  • Strade parallele, for 6 instruments, electronic and video on a text by Norberto Bobbio, Roma, Auditorium Parco della Musica, Ensemble Alter Ego, 2007
  • Hard Pace; per tromba e orchestra, Roma, Auditorium, Orchestra of Santa Cecilia Academy, soloist Håkan Hardenberger, conductor Antonio Pappano, 2007
  • Fresco, per cinque bande in movimento, 2007
  • Unexpected End of Formula, per violoncello, ensemble and elettronica, Koln, WDR FunkHaus, musikFabrik conductor Christian Eggen, soloist DirkWietheger, ZKM live-elektronik, 2008
  • Animus III, per tuba e live electronics, Colonia WDR FunkHaus, soloist Melvyn Poore, ZKM Live-Elektronik, 2008
  • Sirènes, per coro misto in five groups, orchestra and electronic, commission by Ircam-Centre Pompidou, 2009
  • Time, Real and Imaginary, Commande d'État francese per mezzo-soprano and four instruments on a text by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 2009
  • Attraverso, per soprano and ensemble, Monteverdi celebrations, commission by Music Across Festival of Regione Lombardia and Teatro Ponchielli of Cremona, 2009
  • Jeu de Musica, per ensemble, Strasbourg, Festival Musica, 2010
  • Quartett, opera, libretto iwritten in English by the composer, from the pièce by Heiner Müller, commission by Teatro alla Scala, stage direction by La Fura dels Baus, conductor Susanna Mälkki, 2011
  • Terra, opera-oratorio, libretto by Valeria Parrella, opening of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Italian Republic, Naples, Teatro San Carlo, stage director Jean Kalman, conductor Jonathan Webb, 2011
  • Herzstück, based on a text by Heiner Müller, commission by Neue Vocalsolisten for the Eclat Festival, 2012
  • Atopia, oratorio based on text by Piero della Francesca and Calderón della Barca, Madrid, 2012
  • Piano Concerto, per pianoforte and orchestra, with Nic Hodges, Oporto 2013
  • Duende, The Dark Notes, con Leila Josefowicz, coproduction of Swedish Radio, RAI, BBC Proms, 2014
  • Dentro non ha tempo, for large orchestra, in memoriam of Luciana Pestalozza, commission by Teatro alla Scala, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, 2014
  • Vertical Invader, concerto grosso for reed quintet and orchestra, Calefax Reed Quintet, Radio Filharmonisch Orkest and Concertgebouw di Amsterdam, Radio Filharmonisch Orkest conducted by Osmo Vänskä, 2015.
  • Bread, Water and Salt, Orchestra and Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, conductor Antonio Pappano, soprano Pumeza Matshikiza
  • References

    Luca Francesconi Wikipedia

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