In 2016, Luca Francesconi became the first Italian composer to win the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award, the highest recognition for live classical music in the UK. He was awarded in the Large-Scale Composition category for his violin concerto Duende: The Dark Notes.
The jury commented: “Drawing on the world of flamenco, this work is a febrile proliferation of gripping ideas driven with unceasing energy by the solo protagonist. The composer has created a white-knuckle ride of dramatic intent, which never loses its focus even through captivating moments of calm within the turmoil”.
One year before, the performance of the work at the Proms was selected to be one of the top 10 classical music events in 2015 by The Guardian.
World and local premieres
Leila Josefowicz (violin); Susanna Mälkki (conductor)
World premiere | Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Stockholm; February 21, 2014
National premiere in Italy | Orchestra Sinfonica Della Rai; Torino; May, 5, 2014
National premiere in UK | BBC Symphony Orchestra; London (Proms); July 27, 2015
National premiere in Finland | Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra; Helsinki; January 25, 2017
National premiere in US | Los Angeles Philharmonic; Los Angeles; October 27, 2017
Ilya Gringolts (violin); Clemens Schuldt (conductor)
National premiere in Portugal | Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto Casa da Música; Oporto; November 20, 2021
The Guardian (December 16, 2015)
“Francesconi’s haunted, crepuscular violin concerto (...) was the pick of the year’s of the top 10 classical concerts and operas of 2015”
The Guardian (July 28, 2015)
"Substantial new works are few and far between in this year’s Proms, but Luca Francesconi’s violin concerto, Duende – The Dark Notes, was an exception: it’s both conceived on a large scale and hugely rewarding. (…) This then was the first British performance (...). It was well worth the wait."
The Telegraph (July 28, 2015)
"a richly imagined score a major work… a major work… the music has unmistakable soul"
Luca Francesconi about Duende
“Historically duende is the demon of flamenco. As Federico Garcìa Lorca explains, it is a subterranean force of unheard-of power that escapes rational control. To recover a primitive force in the instrument that perhaps most embodies the history of the West it is necessary to make a perilous descent into the underworld of dark notes, or a flight beyond the orbit of the earth. Which amounts to the same thing. Extremely difficult. But without duende we remain bolted to the ground.”
Leila Josefowicz about Duende. The Dark Notes
“(Luca Francesconi and I) 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.”
Read the full interview here
Details and score
Duende. The Dark Notes
for violin and orchestra
2, 2, 2, 1, Clp, 2, Clb, 2, 1 – 18.104.22.168 – 4perc.hp.pno.acc.cell – strings
Photo: Leila Josefowicz/ Chris Lee