In 1984 three of Francesconi’s pieces, including Passacaglia, for large orchestra, were selected for the Gaudeamus International Composers Award in Amsterdam. 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” with Suite 1984.
In 1984 Casa Ricordi became Francesconi’s publisher and since then has published all his works.
Francesconi’s first record, an LP recorded in the United States, contained Viaggiatore insonne, on a text by Sandro Penna.
I’ve always been fascinated by the primordial strenght of energies, the mystery of the duende; the real challenge is to manage them in their inevitable relationship with the historical weight, what I call semantic pressure, than can never be ignored.
In 1985 he was invited to the Festival Musica Novecento in Trento for a series of public conversations with Franco Donatoni. Talking with the great Verona composer Francesconi felt that he reached a solution for a number of unresolved problems. Plot in fiction, per oboe and ensemble (1986), dedicated to Franco Donatoni, was in many ways the happy outcome of this experience.
With this piece, I realized for the first time that cyclical and linear notions of time do cohesist: sospension and arrow time, etnic tradition and the great western dialectic tradition can be dealt with together.
Between 1984 and 1990, Francesconi composed various works for ensemble: Impulse, Da capo, Tracce, Trama, Alborada, Finta-di-nulla, Attesa and Vertige.
Mambo, for solo piano, is Francesconi’s most jazz-like piece.
“What I want from jazz, it’s not redoing it with a simphonic orchestra (a rather pathetic thing). There are more implications: the energy that we found in that music, the energy that comes from the body and from the voice”.
Composed in 1991, for violin and eight instruments, Riti neurali is Francesconi’s third study on memory.
“Luca Francesconi takes a path away from the timbral concerns of the day, dealing instead with radical ways of telling a story. Riti Neurali illustrates Francesconi’s interpretation of memory as a non-centralized network, and shows off Irvine Arditti’s ferocious virtuosity. In the third quartet, subtitled Mirrors, ideas constantly turn about-face or get interrupted by contrasting gestures, stretching his polyphony of musical languages into a single line. Also part of his memory studies, Richiami II explores four simultaneous levels of association. ”.
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 Francesconi’s reputation.
Between 1993 and 1994 Francesconi worked and taught in Paris in the hyper-technological centre of research 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 etymo. Etymo is based almost entirely on Baudelaire’s poem Le Voyage.
“Francesconi’s relationship with musical instruments revolves around the creation of artificial sounds through the use of machines, and has since the beginning of his career. The power differential between the energy it takes to set an electronic process into motion and the effect produced by that minimum input has always fascinated the Milanese composer, who spent years working at IRCAM in Paris. There Francesconi began a research project aimed at exploring the tension between the traditional grammar of musical instruments and newly developed digital techniques that computer technology has offered artists since the 1980s”.
After Etymo, immediately followed Animus, for trombone and live electronics, released in 1995, and Sirènes/Gespenster for four female choires, brass, percussions and live electronic.
A fuoco (1995) is Francesconi’s fourth study on memory.
“Contemporary music has become a genre, but it is not, and must not be. It’s rather a corpus of mental techniques to be used to analyse and synthesize a complex and rich reality”.
In 1999 Riccardo Muti commissioned Wanderer and then premiered it at La Scala in Milan in 2000.
The same year Cobalt, Scarlet: Two Colors of Dawn was commissioned by Mariss Jansons and the Oslo Philarmonic.
“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” .
Chris Pasles, Los Angeles Times
“It is very important to find clear ideas, after all the complexity of the avant-garde, without giving up the fantastic power of everything in this century that just passed. It is important now, more and more, to use transparent elements.”
Luca Francesconi’s work is deeply entangled with a constant reflection on reality; a political committment, in a way, sometimes strictly related to chronicles that literally cry for recognition.
This is the case of Let Me Bleed, “an unaccompanied choral requiem for a student, Carlo Giuliani, shot by police at a peaceful demonstration in Genoa in 2001. It’s a wonderfully sustained meditation on a poem by Attilio Bertolucci, with anguished vocal lines that have the wracked intensity of a Gesualdo madrigal”.
Terre del Rimorso, for soloists, chorus and orchestra, is more discursive, weaving together the classical story of Dionysus with a description of a southern Italian ceremony of diabolic possession.”
Andrew Clements The Guardian
Rest (Luciano Berio in memoriam) is his first concert for cello and orchestra, and it was commissioned by the RAI Sinphonic Orchestra.
“Rest, le concerto pour violoncelle écrit par Luca Francesconi est une pièce impressionnante. Plutôt que d’opposer le soliste avec l’orchestre ce qui est l’essence du concerto, Francesconi fait de la masse orchestrale une caisse de résonance pour le violoncelle, il ‘violoncellise’ l’orchestre. Dédié à Luciano Berio, le matériau sonore de cette pièce est issu des lettres du nom Berio transposées musicalement”.
In 2008 Antonio Pappano premiered Hard Pace, for trumpet and orchestra, written for Hakan Hardenberger and commissioned by Accademia di Santa Cecilia Orchestra.
The relationship with electronics becomes edgier and more tactile in the 2008 work Unexpected End of Formula, for cello, live electronics and ensemble, which was written for one of the today’s leading contemporary music groups, Musikfabrik, of Cologne, Germany.
The orchestra is and will ever be a wonderful machine,
that gives an almost carnal pleasure.
Francesconi is deeply interested in the peculiar perceptive domain of the ear, which recreates a fascinating and mysterious space-time relation.
Two different examples with strong aural impact are Fresco (2003) for five moving orchestras, commissioned by the Stockholm New Music Festival and Sirénes (2009) for five choirs, electronics and orchestra commissioned by IRCAM and conducted by Michael Tabachnik (Festival AGORA, Cité de la Musique Paris).
In 2013 Piano Concerto, for piano e orchestra, was written for Nicolas Hodges, commissioned by Casa da Musica (Porto) and conducted by Jonathan Stockhammer.