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Composed: 2005, rev. 2019

Orchestration: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, clarinet, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, piccolo trumpet, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, 4 percussion (I: glockenspiel, cowbell, metal oil drum, cabasa, cajon, side drum, crash cymbals; II: xylophone, tubular bells, ride cymbal, 4 tom-toms, metal oil drum; III: splash cymbal, 2 suspended cymbals, Chinese cymbal, ride cymbal, tam-tam, small triangle, sleigh bells, 2 cowbells, frying pan, tin box, 2 hardback books, plastic bag with scrap paper; IV: large triangle, anvil, large suspended cymbal, tambourine, bongos, medium cowbell, bass drum), harp, piano, and strings

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: November 26, 2022, Gustavo Gimeno conducting

About this Piece

For the 19-year-old composer Francisco Coll, studying in his hometown of Valencia in 2005, his first orchestral work Aqua Cinerea became something of an artistic mission statement, a brave assertion of all that he held important as a musician. Aqua Cinerea—the work’s ambiguously poetic title, evoking ash-gray water or perhaps even the image of ash falling as rain—is the composer’s own creation.  

   That Coll’s Op. 1 should be scored for orchestra, his most-beloved medium, seems fitting. Indeed, many of the characteristics that we now associate with this composer’s mature voice—a tendency to extremes, a fluidity of formal thinking, sudden moments of rhythmic excitement, and a brooding sensuality—are all to be found within its concentrated 10-minute span. Coll’s work is unconventional in a formal sense, felt intuitively rather than planned-out in advance, and its treatment of musical line reflects a strong preoccupation (which continues to this day) with the great polyphonic composers of the renaissance.  

   Aqua Cinerea was premiered in 2007 by Cristóbal Soler and Orquesta Filarmónica de la Universitat de Valencia and was pivotal to Coll achieving his first recognition as an artist, recognition which in time would trigger his relocation to London. When an opportunity to revisit the work presented itself in 2019, Coll realized that all its transitional material was superfluous. He decisively cut these out of the score, preserving the rest very much as he first heard it, with all its color, mystery, and rawness. Program note courtesy of the composer