Luca Francesconi studied piano at the Milan Conservatory and composition with Azio Corghi, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luciano Berio. He also spent a period in Boston studying jazz.
He was an assistant to Berio 1981–84. In 1990 he founded AGON acustica informatica musica, a centre for music research and production in Milan.
He has written more than a hundred works, ranging from solo to large orchestral pieces, from opera to multimedia, for a wide range of instrumental, commissioned and performed all over the world. He collaborates regularly with leading conductors, soloists and ensembles.
He has composed five radio-operas and nine works of music theatre including Ballata (La Monnaie, Brussels); Buffa Opera which he conducted in many performances; Gesualdo Considered as a Murderer for Holland Festival, the dramatic oratorio; Terra, which opened the Teatro San Carlo 2011 Season and the opera Quartett (2011) based on the play by Heiner Müller, commissioned by Teatro alla Scala/Wiener Festwochen, (director Àlex Ollé / Fura dels Baus, conductor Susanna Mälkki). Quartett was performed more than 40 times since its premiere (Wiener Festwochen, Cité de la Musique, Holland Festival, Oporto, Musica Strasbourg, Opéra de Lille, Gulbenkian Lisbon, London Royal Opera House-Covent Garden (new production), Opera di Mälmo (new production) and Teatro Colón Buenos Aires.
Works in his wide catalogue include: Etymo for soprano, live electronics and chamber orchestra, (Kairos CD with Ensemble Intercontemporain and Barbara Hannigan); Wanderer for large orchestra (commissioned by Filarmonica della Scala) conducted by Riccardo Muti; Cobalt, Scarlet commissioned by Mariss Jansson for the Oslo Philharmonic and performed a lot of times by important orchestras among them Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Gewandhaus di Lipsia, BBC Symphony, Orchestre Philharmonique Radio France, Göteborg Symphoniker, Cleveland Orchestra, Israel Philarmonic; the trumpet concerto Hard Pace for Håkan Hardenberger commissioned by Accademia di Santa Cecilia Orchestra (under Antonio Pappano) along with Zaterdag Matinée-Concertgebouw, Göteborg Symphoniker, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Festival MITO; video-opera Striaz; the cello concerto Unexpected End of Formula commissioned and performed by musikFabrik in Cologne, dedicated to Helmuth Lachenmann; Terre del rimorso for soloists, choir and orchestra premiered in Strasbourg by the SWR Symphony Orchestra and the Vokalensemble Stuttgart under the direction of Peter Eötvös; Sirènes (2009) for 5 choirs, electronics and orchestra commissioned by IRCAM and conducted by Michael Tabachnik (Festival AGORA, Cité de la Musique Paris).
In recent years he wrote: Duende, The Dark Notes (2013), a violin concerto for Leila Josefowicz commissioned by Swedish Radio Orchestra, BBC Proms, RAI Orchestra (conductor Susanna Mällki); Piano Concerto (2013) for Nicolas Hodges commissioned by Casa da Mùsica (Porto); Dentro non ha tempo (2014) orchestra piece commissioned by Teatro alla Scala and performed under Esa-Pekka Salonen; Vertical Invader (2015) written for Calefax wind quintett and Radio Filharmonisch Orkest and premiered at Amsterdam Concertgebouw; Macchine in echo (2015), concerto for Grau-Schumacher Piano Duo commissioned by WDR, Festival MUSICA and Wiener Konzerthaus/Ernst von Siemens Foundation and premiered in Cologne; Bread, Water and Salt (2015) for choir and orchestra inspired to Nelson Mandela premiered in Rome under Antonio Pappano. It was a joint commission of Accademia di Santa Cecilia and Radio France.
Francesconi is also an active conductor and has taught at conservatories and masterclasses around the world for 30 years. He is Head of Composition at the Musikhögskolan, Malmö (Sweden).
He has been Music Director of the Venice Biennale (2008-2011), Director of the Ultima Festival in Oslo. In 2012 he was professor in residence at the Gulbenkian Foundation, taking over Emanuel Nunes position. In the same year he was professor in residence and featured composer at the new Academie Achantes at IRCAM in Paris. In 2013 he was composer in residence at the Casa de Musica of Porto.
His future plans include: a new opera - Trompe la Mort - on Balzac commissioned by Opera Bastille Paris in 2017; an opera commissioned by Covent Garden in 2020 and another for Zurich Opernhaus in 2022.