Review of Etymo by Luca Francesconi (2008, KAIROS Production 0012712KAI)
The Italian composer Luca Francesconi has a respectable curriculum since studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luciano Berio, who also served as assistant between 1981 and 1984, and was the director of the Biennale Musica in Venice. Like his mentors Francesconi seems determined to extend the vitality of the modernist tradition by absorbing and transforming more popular contributions, rock, jazz and ethnic music by making extensive use of electronics. This record produced by the German label Kairos allows an interesting excursus in his musical forms.
In Etymo, his most substantial work, 25 minutes, soprano Barbara Hannigan plays and sings lyricals and poems drawn from Baudelaire while a chamber ensemble plays and ripples musical textures around her. Her voice is like the call of a siren between the iridescent turbine of music; Francesconi isolates her sound and distorts it through the electronical machines by adding a strange hallucinatory effect.
Three more pieces, all within fourteen and fifteen minutes, provide an additional demonstration of Francesconi’s ability to make interesting sounds and a sixth sense irresistible to shape.
Da Capo, for nine musicians, follows a path, an arc that goes from silence to frantic activity, with a backward journey moving musical proportions by doing.
In A Fuoco the great Pablo Márquez plays with a light hand, as if he wanted to avoid disturbing his colleagues, an extremely demanding and virtuoso piece. Anonimous is a wild tour de force for the thrombonist Benny Sluchin, with the “electronic treatment” that highlights the wide range of expressions and shades.
The performance and quality of this CD are simply unmatched as it would be reasonable to expect from a recording made by IRCAM.