Miller Theatre commissioned writer Lara Pellegrinelli to create the program notes for the Composer Portraits in the 2022-23 season as well as a series of Q&As with Executive Director Melissa Smey. Here is the second installment, centering around our next Portrait featuring the music of Luca Francesconi.
Q. You’ve made multiple attempts to present a Composer Portrait of Luca Francesconi, which had to be postponed twice last year. Is the third time the charm?
A. I hope so! Luca and the musicians have been waiting for this to happen for so very long now. I’m going to put it out into the universe that this portrait must finally happen.
Luca lives in Italy, and the travel situation was constantly evolving last year. We had originally planned his portrait for April of 2021, but that entire live season had to be reframed because of COVID. We postponed to February 2022, but then the entire campus was shut down for the month of January because of the Omicron variant. So we had to make the difficult decision to postpone it again.
Q. You often need to wait for the right opportunity to present a given composer from your wish list for the series. Apart from pandemic delays, how long have you wanted to work with Luca, and what brought this concert about?
A. I first encountered his music rather a long time ago—when I was an intern at the Lincoln Center Festival. Then, a few years ago, he was a guest in the Department of Music, where he gave an open lecture. He was gregarious, funny and warm—also intense and strong in his opinions.
But this concert came about in part because of Luca’s relationship with Brad Lubman, the co-artistic director of Ensemble Signal. Ensemble Signal is perhaps best known for its Steve Reich projects. Brad and Luca have known each other for almost 20 years.
Brad has a remarkable reputation as a conductor. He has an academic home at the Eastman School of Music, where he teaches and conducts an ensemble, and he also has a career in Europe, which has given him a deep connection to new music on the continent and composers like Luca. Ensemble Signal was invited to do a concert at the Library of Congress featuring works whose manuscript scores belong to the library. Lauren Radnofsky, Brad’s co-artistic/executive director and an amazing cellist, suggested Luca for a commission. And that was the genesis of Trauma Études, which premiered at the Library of Congress in 2018. Our concert is the New York premiere.
Q. Can you talk a bit about Luca’s career as a composer?
A. It’s significant. Luca has had major commissions and performances—for the BBC Proms and at La Scala, among others. He was the artistic director for the Venice Biennale for four years. He founded the AGON Institute for music research in Milan. He’s published by Casa Ricordi, the oldest of European publishers of music. He was Luciano Berio’s assistant.
But Europe is different than the United States. He’s a really important composer, and yet his work is not so well known in the United States. Unexpected End of Formula, the other work on the program, was written in 2008 and this is its U.S. premiere.