World Premiere of Francesconi's Duende: Interview with Leila Josefowicz

World Premiere of Francesconi's Duende: Interview with Leila Josefowicz

Luca Francesconi has been commissioned to write a new violin concerto for Leila Josefowicz called Duende, The Dark Notes. We talked with Ms Josefowicz about the new piece and her collaboration with the composer.

As an artist, you have a strong focus on contemporary music. What is the reason for that? How did you get involved with contemporary music? What was your first memorable experience in this area?
I was always attractive to contemporary music, or what seemed contemporary to me at the time. The unconventional and non traditional aspect definitely draws me in, perhaps because I think I had quite a conservative training, focusing on the great standard rep with the interpretations of the old masters in my ear. Along with that came (and still comes) very comparative listening which I wanted to run from. I want to play music which reaches the listener in a very personal and spontaneous way, a way in which they listen in the moment and feel the experience of it without the past experience of knowing what comes next and judging it. And if it is a newer work that maybe one has heard before, listening to it requires listening to a new world, each composer speaking his own musical language. If one doesn't feel he's understanding every note or gesture, not to worry. It can feel like a mystery that may be understood with time and more listening.

How did you meet Luca Francesconi? What was your first impression when you heard his music? Is there anything that you particularly enjoy about his music?
I met Luca Francesconi through my dear friend Susanna Malkki. It was a beautiful partnership to begin and we immediately connected and became very good friends. We acknowledged that we both have Duende, which cannot be learned...this is something we knew we could share with the world, he with his composition and me being the interpreter and musical messenger. I appreciate his incredible musical imagination, his scores bursting with color and drama. I realize that very little in our lives is able to be rationally controlled. Learning a score the intense and thorough way I do it is as rational as can be I think, so then the fun begins when I can let go and let my spirit take over and have it fuse with the knowledge of the score that I have.

I have read that when Esa Pekka-Salonen was writing his violin concerto for you, you both were talking on Skype about it. What is the process like working with Francesconi? Do you talk together a lot about the piece?
We had many skype conversations and meetings in which I was trying all kinds of different techniques, and speaking about the idea of the piece being an outlet for our musical history, containing our inner fire and our pasts which have brought us here to the present.

When you know the composer who is writing the piece in person, does that change for you the way you practice his or her music?
Knowing who is writing for me is a huge benefit that I can't even imagine not having!! For me this is as important as the score, and because I'm quite intuitive and highly sensitive to interaction, it's very meaningful to me. It's one of the main reasons I'm involved with new music.

2014 has just started. What are your plans for this year? Which projects are you working on? Is there anything you are particularly looking forward to?
I'm currently working on a new score by John Adams with the premiere in 2015. This is very exciting and a little ways off so there's plenty of time to get to know the new score, like a new universe... Very gratifying.

The premiere will be on February 20th and 21st, 2014 with Susanna Mälkki and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Stockholm. Another performance will be in Turin on May 2. (Foto: J. Henry Fair)