FRANCISCO COLL (b.1985): Violin Concerto, 4 Iberian Miniatures for Violin and Orchestra, Aqua Cinerea for Orchestra, Op. 1, Mural for Large Orchestra, Hidd’n Blue for Orchestra, Op. 6.

Catalogue Number: 06W066

Label: PentaTone

Reference: PTC5186 951

Format: SACD hybrid

Price: $19.98

Description: Mural (2013-15) is essentially a substantial five-movement symphony, summing up many aspects of the composer’s relationship to music of earlier eras (the music frequently feels like a modern edifice built on, or emerging organically from, the ruins of the past), his compositional and artistic preoccupations, and societal concerns. The opening movement has an atmosphere of foreboding, punctuated by fleeting images of past calamity. This is followed by a rapid scherzo, the most overtly tonal movement, rhythmically driven and rudely dynamic, and then a beautiful, autumnally melancholy slow movement with outbursts of dramatic passion, which seems to echo aspects of late Busoni (Doktor Faust) and late Mahler (9th Symphony). This is followed by an exceedingly sinister movement, a much less conventional scherzo than the previous one, that seems to start as a serene chorale interrupted by percussive hammer blows - until it becomes apparent that the two are inextricably, symbiotically linked, and the music devolves into the nightmarish whirling and grinding of some implacable mechanism. Shades of Mahler's 9th again in the deeply tragic final movement, music of monumental ruins, strings uttering an exhausted lament, horns baying into the abyss. The music accumulates density into a final huge climax, which evaporates, with a last-minute tonal resolution like the "amen" that closes another 9th Symphony - Pettersson’s. The large, 3-movement Violin Concerto is dedicated to Kopatchinskaja, who has become a frequent collaborator of the composer’s. The first movement is incandescent and volatile, drawing coruscating flares of virtuosity from the violin. The music is in a constant state of instability, capable at any moment of plunging into shattering violence or mysterious, alluring, delicate warmth and expressiveness. The second movement is truly the heart of the work, ravishingly sensuous and beautiful, yet with currents of turbulent passion an integral part of its nature, capable of erupting and subsiding without warning. Rich, dark textures in the orchestra’s lowest registers give way to ethereal, gossamer shrouds of sound on the margins of immobility and silence, the soloist tracing a silvery thread of melody throughout. A dazzling cadenza ends the movement, leading directly into the finale, which mirrors the opening movement in its wildly unpredictable energy. In this movement the soloist's almost manic hysteria is clearly the motive force in inciting the orchestra into its own fragmented delirious dance. The delicious Iberian Miniatures pay tribute - with immense inventiveness, and equal parts humor, affection, and irreverence - to the flamenco traditions of his homeland, much as he did in his vibrant guitar concerto Turia (01W062). Characteristic dances - jota, fandango, tango - are explored in whirling, surrealist delirium, and the violin part (written for Kopatchinskaja) is a tour de force of technical bravura. Aqua Cinerea (2006) is the composer’s Op.1 (given its technical accomplishment, there is presumably a good amount of unacknowledged earlier music). It started Coll on his enviable professional career, as a tape of its premiere led to Thomas Adès accepting him as his (only, to date) student, and to further commissions and awards. More obviously tonal than the more recent works, it nonetheless bears the stamp of the composer’s soon-to-emerge mature style. A brooding, fluid tone poem with restless, stormy undercurrents, it is undeniably a powerful work in its own right. Hidd'n Blue followed soon after, a tense, tumultuous overture which reflects the instability of the time of Coll's arrival in London just as the financial crisis and recession shook the world. The work’s jittery rhythms and unstable orchestral textures lend the piece an hysterical edge; it was very successful in multiple outings in London and firmly established the composer on the international stage. Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin), Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg; Gustavo Gimeno.


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