On 16 February Javier Perianes and Gustavo Gimeno will premiere Francisco Coll’s Ciudad sin sueño with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. The 20-minute fantasia for piano and orchestra is cast in three unbroken parts and was co-commissioned by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonieorchester Basel, and Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía.
The title (‘City That Does Not Sleep’) shares its name with a poem from Federico García Lorca’s Poet in New York. As with many works by Coll, it derives aspects of its material and spirit from Flamenco. Coll likens the work to Manuel de Falla’s Noches en los jardines de España in its free development of material - ostentatious, intense and almost improvisatory. Like de Falla’s work, Coll’s fantasia is almost – but not quite – a concerto.
‘Desplantes’, the first part, takes its name and character from some of Flamenco’s signature gestures; rude, flamboyant movements imbued with a particular kind of effrontery. ‘Duende’, the second movement, evokes a concept fundamental to Lorca’s creative spirit, and that of flamenco, something ineffable, untranslatable, authentic, and atavistic – "that mysterious power that everyone feels but no philosopher can explain." The festive conclusion ‘Orgía’ moves erratically through angular and repetitive rhythms in a kind of excessive spiral, in which the soloist becomes the leader of the group.
Ciudad sin sueño receives its North American premiere from Perianes – its dedicatee – and Gimeno with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on 28 February. In Toronto Gimeno will also conduct the North American premiere of Fantasia Bætica, Coll’s orchestration of an earthy 12-minute piano showpiece composed for Arthur Rubinstein in 1919 by Manuel de Falla - another work that bears the stamp of flamenco influences. It also receives its Spanish premiere on 15 February from Vasily Petrenko and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León in Valladolid.
Gimeno has been a keen advocate for Coll’s music, conducting and recording a range of his pieces including Aqua Cinerea, the Violin Concerto, Hidd’n Blue, and Mural with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and Münchner Philharmoniker. He gave the US and Canadian premieres of Coll’s Aqua Cinerea with the LA Philharmonic and Toronto Symphony respectively in November 2022 and March 2023; in August 2023 he conducted Coll’s Hímnica with the Concertgebouw Youth Orchestra in Amsterdam and the Elbphilharmonie. His orchestral portrait disc, released by Pentatone in 2021, won a 2022 BBC Music Magazine prize, and an ICMA award.
On 22 March Coll will make his conducting debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a studio concert, directing a programme of Manuel de Falla, Jesús Guridi and his Aqua Cinerea and Hímnica – both of which will be receiving their UK premieres.