Having commissioned Francisco Coll's Four Iberian Miniatures in 2015, Britten Sinfonia was prompted to ask Coll to write a Harpsichord Concerto for Mahan Esfahani. Coll has long been fascinated with the instrument (it plays an important role in his Piano Concertino), and the resultant 10-minute work for harpsichord and ensemble is a veritable tour de force.
Premiered in February as part of a programme which also included the de Falla concerto, it begins with a curt ‘Toccata’ before opening out in the work’s heart – an introspective Lento containing music of unblinking honesty and emotional depth. As with the Four Iberian Miniatures, flamenco is a strong influence, particularly in the closing ‘Fandango’, though here the traces are even more splintered and ghostly.
‘With a solo part that’s hyperactive in the outer movements, dark and inward in the central Lento, which is linked to the finale by the briefest of retrospective cadenzas, it has all the characteristics we’ve come to associate with Coll’s works. The disruptive and unstable rhythms, abrupt switches of mood and direction, and intricate, slightly brittle meshing of the harpsichord and the orchestra kept the music constantly on the move, never staying in one place for too long. Even its ending seems provisional.’
The Guardian (Andrew Clements), 5 February 2017