Mural-Das Lied von der Erde

George Pehlivanian, conductor

6 / IV / 2017



Francisco Coll

Gustav Mahler
Das Lied von der Erde


Elena Zhidkova, mezzosoprano

Nikolai Schukoff, tenor

George Pehlivanian, conductor

Francisco Coll (b. 1985)

Mural (2013-2015)

This work was commissioned by the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg and Philharmonie Luxembourg, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, and the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, Valencia. Scored for a large orchestra, the piece plays for around twenty-four minutes.

With this composition, which could be understood as a five-movement symphony, I feel that a period in my work is closing. As if across a mural, the piece presents a synthesis of the musical language I have developed in the last decade. Its structure and harmony have been a constant obsession through the two years it took me to complete the score, two years during which I somehow had it in mind I was writing a ‘Grotesque Symphony’, where Dionysus meets with Apollo.

At the start comes a surreal introduction, full of dream-like contrast and strange melodic lines. After a couple of minutes the orchestra almost evaporates, to leave an expressive cor anglais solo. This introduces festal music, celebrating the feast of the psyche, the psyche of hypermodernity. (My music always comes from a need to say something about our way of living.)

The second movement is a very short and energetic dance, developed from my Hyperlude III for solo violin. Set to quaver motion throughout, this is a kind of scherzo, with abrupt changes of colour and dynamics.

Next comes a quiet and sensual canon on the strings, infiltrated by harmonies from the woodwind and brass, and constantly growing until it suddenly reaches a chorale-like calm sequence. This carries the music to a massive final chord that is at once stationary and in constant movement, with microtone inflections.

In the fourth movement, fragmentary vestiges of the introit from Victoria’s Requiem link to a chaotic new section that evokes the anxiety of life in a busy western city, creating thereby a hybrid of high culture and low. The arrival of the full orchestra brings heavy chords, industrial soundscapes and electric melodic lines. There is humour on the surface, and a union of opposites: chaos and order working together.

Harmony guides the expressive slow finale. Linear music is interwoven with chordal, eventually punctuated by rapid bursts from woodwinds and mallet percussion. Mountains are seen as cathedrals. A massive chorale leads to the coda, where an uncertain last page places an E major chord alongside a cluster. What does it mean exactly? I have a vague idea.

To reach the essence of things, you must first be sophisticated. With Mural I had the feeling of returning to the traditional problems of composition. My subsequent works (Harpsichord Concerto, Concerto Grosso ‘Invisible Zones’ for string quartet, harp and string orchestra) have confirmed this supposition. I am trying to approach simplicity in each new work; structure, rhythm and harmony are crucial in the process, and melody is becoming more and more important.