‘Mountains as Cathedrals’: Coll’s Mural at the BBC Proms

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This summer Coll’s vast orchestral work Mural toured the UK with Thomas Adès conducting the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. The 24-minute piece – premiered last year by the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg under Gustavo Gimeno – is an extraordinary achievement, handling vast forces with an impressive single-mindedness to create a five-movement work of stark and unsettling poetry.

In the last movement of Mural, Coll writes, ‘Mountains are seen as cathedrals.’ With it, he feels ‘that a period in my work is closing. As if across a mural, the piece presents a synthesis of the musical language I have developed in the last decade. Its structure and harmony have been a constant obsession through the two years it took me to complete. I had the feeling of returning to the traditional problems of composition. I am trying to approach simplicity in each new work; structure, rhythm and harmony are crucial in the process, and melody is becoming more and more important.’

 

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‘Adès’s only pupil shares his teacher’s ear for alluring orchestral effects. Nor are they surface gloss: they shape the music itself. He’s also firmly in control of energy and pace, and has an ear for contrasts. In Mural, Apollo meets Dionysus, slow and fast movements alternate, fragments of Victoria’s Requiem meet modern anxiety. And Coll is good at endings: a marvellous chord that seems to be at once standing still and teeming with life concludes the central movement, while the finale is pared back to a simple glimpse of E-major purity. Yet when that evaporates, a quiet cluster hangs on – a shadow of doubt.’

The Times (Rebecca Franks), 7 August 2017

 

‘It’s a measure of the imagination and confidence of Coll’s Mural that its impact wasn’t diminished at all when heard alongside two such immensely powerful musical statements [The Rite of Spring and Adès’s Polaris]. There’s the vivid instrumental imagery that one recognises from Coll’s ensemble pieces. It is music of extremes, which is constantly reassessing its options and the directions it can take. The whole structure of Mural is tethered by a pair of slow movements – the churning, string-dominated canon that’s placed at the centre, and the finale, which opens vast, almost Brucknerian harmonic vistas as it proceeds.’

The Guardian (Andrew Clements), 4 August 2017

 

‘Febrile with imaginative ideas… it does not feel a minute too long.’

The Financial Times (Richard Fairman), 8 August 2017