Luca FRANCESCONI (b.
Etymo (1994) [25:23]
Da Capo (1985/6) [14:20]
A fuoco (1995) [14:41]
Animus (1995) [14:44]
Hannigan (soprano)(Etymo); Pablo Márquez
(guitar) (A fuoco); Benny Sluchin (trombone)(Animus);
IRCAM (Etymo, Animus); Ensemble Intercontemporain/Susanna
rec. Espace de Projection, IRCAM, Paris, 21 December
2006 (Etymo), 10-11 September 2007 (Da Capo,
A fuoco) and 25 January 2007 (Animus) KAIROS
Francesconi is one of the most prominent Italian composer
of his generation with a substantial and varied output
to his credit. The release under review provides a good
idea of his output although all the works recorded here
are already some ten or twenty years old.
Capo (1986) for small ensemble is the earliest work here and is probably
one of Francesconi’s best-known and most popular. It
is not difficult to understand why. It is a brilliantly
scored, colourful piece full of nice instrumental touches
and lively rhythms, although it opens and ends in a
rather subdued manner.
other works were all composed at about the same time:
between 1994 and 1995. They, too, display a considerable
variety of means and moods. Etymo is the most
substantial both in length and in content. The title, Etymo (as
in etymology) is about the search for the origin and
development of language. It sets texts from various poems
from Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal for soprano,
large ensemble and electronics. The final words are drawn
from Baudelaire’s Carnets intimes. The piece opens
with an electronic drone of indeterminate sounds giving
way to a brief outburst from the ensemble. This precedes
the soprano’s first entry suggesting chaos, out of which
words will eventually emerge, first as mere phonemes
and later as intelligible language at the soprano’s first
words Dites, qu’avez-vous vu? (“Say, what have
you seen?”). From then on, the song will unfold in a
big arch, This comprises a succession of contrasted episodes
mostly characterised by an often dangerously exposed
soprano part and vivid instrumental colours. At times
these are enhanced by electronics. At times, too, song
turns into plain speech, but song prevails. The final
words from Baudelaire’s Carnets intimes are neutrally
spoken over soft electronic shimmering.
fuoco (1995) is the fourth part of a large-scale cycle Studio sulla
memoria (“Study on Memory”) consisting of Richiami
II (1989-92), Memoria (1990), Riti neutrali (1991)
and A fuoco (1995). The composer has an anecdote
concerning this work for guitar and ensemble. In 1982,
while studying with Berio in Tanglewood, Francesconi
showed him a piece for guitar and ensemble that he
was just writing. Berio pointed to a short fragment
remarking that “it’s not bad at all”. Francesconi discarded
that early work, but for that very fragment which he
retained and reworked thirteen years later in A
fuoco “in the hope of penetrating its secret and
perhaps making a complete piece of it … and, when all
was said and done, rid myself of it”. A fuoco again
unfolds in a series of contrasted episodes by turns
dreamy, meditative and aggressive, the whole expressed
in vivid instrumental colours and rhythms.
was a bit unsure about the last work Animus for
trombone and electronics; but I must now admit that I
find this a fairly fascinating, if a tad too long work.
I am still not quite sure whether I like it. This piece
is not unlike Etymo in that it, too, develops
from raw breathing noises that will later metamorphose
into sounds. When listening to this rather breath-taking
- in both meanings of the words - piece one finds it
hard to believe that there is just one trombone player
at work. He is aided by brilliantly handled electronics.
The piece certainly sounds terrific when heard as SACD. The
climaxes are truly shattering, even when heard on simple
stereo equipment. This work is a very fine example of
Francesconi’s masterly use of electronics with live instruments.
The same applies to Etymo, in which electronics
considerably enlarge the instruments’ expressive range
and colour. It is through these means that a remarkable
intensity of expression is achieved and this goal remains
Francesconi’s main concern. His music is certainly complex
and quite demanding but it remains first and foremost
strongly expressive and often quite beautiful.
doubt that these performances will ever be bettered.
All concerned play and sing with such superb technique
and commitment that one forgets about all the complexities
of the music and is just carried away by the music’s
expressive strength. This is a very fine release indeed
that may be safely recommended to anyone interested in
this most endearing composer’s music. This is strong
stuff for sure but ultimately quite rewarding.
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