Luca Francesconi (Milan, March 17th 1956) started his piano studies at 5 then studied composition with Azio Corghi at the Milan conservatory, with Karlheinz Stockhausen, with Luciano Berio in Tanglewood and jazz at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He also worked as Luciano Berio’s assistant between 1981 and 1984. In 1988 and 1990 attended Darmstadt Summer Courses where he was awarded the Kranichstein Music Prize.
His interest in technology was always compelling, since the mid ‘70es. In 1990 he founded Agon Acustica Informatica Musica in Milano, a musical research center for production with new technologies. Since 1992 also his close and prolific collaboration with IRCAM in Paris became regular and a central focus of his research. He composed several works for voice and ensemble with electronic treatment like Etymo (1994), Gespenster (4 choirs brass percussions. Witten/Concertgebouw/ Chatelet 1997) Etymo II for voice and orchestra (2005) et Sirènes ( 5 choirs and orchestra), premiered in 2009 at Agorà festival in Paris, plus solos with electronics in real time: Animus for trombone and Animus II for viola.
On the other hand his interest for other cultural traditions, especially african, has been a deep guideline and inspiration to explore different conceptions of time, rhythm and polyphonic organisation of perception.
Francesconi has written 150 works, from solo to large orchestra to multimedia, commissioned by the most important international musical institutions. He has composed 9 operas and 3 oratorios. Initially the influence of Berio was freely structured but gradually modulated by Donatoni, Ferneyhough, Grisey and later Lachenmann. The passionate interest for ethnic and popular traditions including Italy, East Europe, Africa ( through the precious encounter with Simha Arom), blues and jazz led to the exploration of anthropology and ritual forms of possession and shamanism from Salento and Voodoo to Tuva and Korea. The fundamental and betrayed connection between body and mind became one of his main investigations.
Since 1999/2000 he adds a peculiar focus on large scale orchestral works like Wanderer commissioned and premiered by Riccardo Muti with La Scala Philarmonic and Cobal Scarlet commissioned by Mariss Janssons for Oslo Philarmonic, Danish Radio Orchestra, Gothenborg Symphoniker. This piece has been widely performed all over the world, from BBC Symphony to Los Angeles Philarmonic and San Francisco Symphony, Israel Philarmonic, Finnish Radio Orchestra ( with Cd recording), Gewandhaus Leipzig and many others. Among his most recent works: Duende – The Dark Notes, concerto for violin and orchestra written for Leila Josefowicz, winner of the “Royal Philharmonic Society Award” at BBC Proms, conductor Susanna Mälkki; Piano Concerto commissioned by Casa da Musica of Porto, written for Nicolas Hodges, conductor Jonathan Stockhammer; Dentro non ha Tempo commissioned by La Scala Orchestra, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, a tribute to Luciana Abbado; Macchine in Echo concerto for two pianos and orchestra written for the Grau-Schumaker duo, commissioned by WestDeutschRundfunk Köln and MUSICA Strasbourg, conductor Peter Rundel; Driven to Tears for Beatrice Rana, Insieme II for Sentieri Selvaggi, das Ding singt, concerto for cello and orchestra commissioned by Luzern Festival, written for Jay Campbell, conductor Matthias Pintscher; Daedalus, for flute and ensemble, written for the Boulez Ensemble and Emmanuel Pahud, and premiered at the Boulez Saal in January 2018 under the baton of Daniel Barenboim, commissioner of the piece. A theatre lover since early age, inevitably turned his interest very soon to music theatre and opera.
The first opera was Scene (1985), never performed. Then a number of radio-operas among which the Prix Italia winner Ballata del Rovescio del Mondo (1994). Right after he composed the multimedia works Striáz (1996) and LIPS, EYES BANG (1997/98). In 1999 he finished Ballata commissioned by La Monnaie Opera House in Brussels (Kazushi Ono / Achim Freyer 2002). The same year BuffaOpera in Milan and Perugia, that was conducted by the composer for thirty sold out performances. Gesualdo Considered as a Murderer with Hilliard Ensemble and Nederlandse Blazers Ensemble was commissioned by Holland Festival and premiered in Amsterdam in 2004. San Carlo Opera House in Naples commissioned him an opera/oratorio for the 150th celebration of the Unification of Italy: Terra ( Parrella/ Kalman/Webb) was premiered at the presence of the President of Italian Republic in 2011. His opera Quartett ( libretto by the composer from Heiner Müller) commissioned by La Scala in 2011, conducted by Susanna Malkki with the direction of Alex Ollè – FURA dels Baus (winner of the music critics prize ‘Franco Abbiati’ 2011), has been performed more than eighty times all over the world, in eight different productions. The last production of Quartett was a new version in german language commissioned by Daniel Barenboim and opening the 2020 StaatsOper Berlin season under his baton. Quartett, a rather exceptional event for a contemporary opera, has been rescheduled again at La Scala in October 2019, as a central event of the MilanoMusica Festival dedicated to Luca Francesconi, Velocità del Tempo (Speeds of Time). Twenty pieces were performed, from solo to large orchestra and opera. In 2017 Trompe-la-Mort, libretto written by the composer from Honoré de Balzac, was commissioned by the Opera de Paris, and premiered in Paris (Malkki/Cassiers). The new opera Timon of Athens, was commissioned by the Bayerische StaatsOper of Munich, and scheduled for 2020 with Kent Nagano as conductor. The pandemic forced the cancellation of Timon which is now rescheduled in other important opera houses.
Francesconi latest compositions include Corpo Elettrico (2020) a new concerto per violin and orchestra with Patricia Kopatschinskaia (coproduction IRCAM, Casa da Musica Porto, Paris Philarmonique de Radio France, Bamberg Symphoniker, Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, Santa Cecilia Roma, Los Angeles Philharmonic). Per lo Corpo Luce (2021) for Choir and Orchestra was commissioned by Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and Zubin Mehta for Dante celebrations (premiered march 2022) and Forze Visibili was commissioned by WDR Wittener MusikTage 2022, a Trio for Accordion, Violin, clarinet ( Teodoro Anzellotti, Tianwa Yang, Thorsten Johanns).
His work is published by RICORDI.
Luca Francesconi works as a conductor as well. He has been always committed to teaching, considered as an indispensable transmission of experience. He taught composition for 20 years in Italian Conservatories and 15 years at Malmoe MusikHochSchule in Sweden. He was composer in Residence at Rotterdam Conservatory 1990/91, at Strasbourg Conservatoire 1995/96, Montreal Conservatoire 1998. He regularly held masterclasses and courses notably at Akioshidai Japan, UNM in Iceland, Eastman School of Music ( New York), Siracuse University, UCSanDiego, Columbia University, IRCAM, Centre Acanthes, Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon, Domain Forget Quebec, Munich HochSchule, Belgrade Conservatory, Barcelona Conservatory, Malaga Summer Courses, Geneve Conservatory, Birmingham Conservatory, Madrid CPDMC, Beijing Central Conservatory, Casa da Musica Porto, Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory. And many others.
He won several international prizes among which Gaudeamus 1984,
Premio Guido d’Arezzo 1985,
StipendienPreis and KranichsteinPreis in Darmstadt (’88, ’90),
Siemens Composers Prize 1994, Prix Italia 1994,
Grand Prix du Disque Academie Charles Cros 2008,
Abbiati Music Critics Award 2011,
Royal Philharmonic Society London Award 2015,
Accademia dei Lincei Premio Feltrinelli for Music Composition 2018,
Premio Italiques Paris-Rome 2018.
He is Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres,
Accademico di Santa Cecilia,
Membro Onorario of Accademia Filarmonica Romana,
Membro onorario del Festival Milano Musica.
After leaving the direction of AGON in 2004, in the same year he founded the Festival “Connect” in Malmö. In 2005 he founded the “Musical invention Lab” at the “Le Settimane Musicali di Stresa” with the Norwegian Ensemble BIT 20 in residence. From 2008 to 2011 he was the artistic director of the Venice Biennale Musica, where he invented and coordinated four Festivals. During this inspirational experience he endorsed the repertoire (the Prize Leone d’Oro assigned to Lachenmann, Kurtag, Eotvos and Rihm) but he was also committed to involve the creative forces of the city of Venice. The core idea was to experience new formats of polisensorial event as a ‘variable geometry’ named EXIT, that could deeply change the perception of new music, cross relating it with different artistic disciplines and installed in open forms of time and space. In 2011 he was also appointed as artistic director at the Ultima festival in Oslo.