Composed for Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Francisco Coll’s Violin Concerto is an imposing new work which pushes lyricism to breaking point.
Premiered in February by the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg under Gustavo Gimeno, this 25-minute work has been co-commissioned by the NTR ZaterdagMatinee, London Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony and Bamberger Symphoniker, an impressive list of partners that is a testament to Coll’s growing international reputation. One of the world’s most distinctive violinists, Kopatchinskaja has already performed Coll’s Four Iberian Miniatures, Hyperludes, Rizoma, LalulaLied, and the double concerto Les Plaisirs Illuminés. This creative partnership is nothing short of ideal: not only do both artists constantly push their disciplines to extremes, they also both delight in exploring the absurd and surreal.
From the opening bars of the concerto’s first movement, ‘Atomised’, the listener is plunged headlong into a frenzied toccata-like texture which, despite its frantic upward surging gestures seems to be in constant freefall. Islands of lyricism materialise over deep, constantly shifting orchestral textures. Here, as throughout the work, the bravura solo writing seethes with wild, brittle energy.
In what follows, ‘Hyperhymnia’, decaying fragments of Wagner (the Venusberg music from Tannhäuser) drift in and out of focus, like floating debris. There is a disquieting radiance to much of this movement, which has its beginnings in Hyperlude IV (the first Coll work that Kopatchinskaja played). After a series of cataclysmic climaxes, a searching cadenza totters abruptly into the final movement, ‘Phase’, which rudely announces itself in the form of an angular street dance. Here, the writing becomes increasingly sardonic, splintered… wavering on the edge of the void.
A UK premiere follows in March 2021, with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by François-Xavier Roth. Read Francisco Coll's account of writing the concerto here.