Franco Piersanti and music for images

Written by Paolo Eustachi. Published in Reportage

15_12_12-Franco Piersanti - Cagliari - photo_Eugenio_Schirru-_MG_6873-2

Reportage del concerto del 20 febbraio 2010 all’Aula Magna per la stagione IUC

A premiere represents – at least for a reporter – a highly emotional moment. The presentation of a new artistic creature is a great event especially if one considers the huge challenges cultural life is confronted with, in particular in our country where everything seems to be overwhelmed by mediocre tv shows daily competing in a pathetical audience challenge and that sadly and (un)explainably are widely covered on the main newspapers.
A premiere can eventually become an unforgettable memory when the listener meets a true and deep music writing, not limited to the simple sound experimentation. Before being seen as a cinema scores specialist, Franco Piersanti is a great classical composer just like his education is deeply “classical”.

At Santa Cecilia conservatory he studies double bass and orchestra direction with the great maestro Franco Ferrara. He then tests himself with his favourite instrument for several seasons in the Rai Symphonic Orchestra in Rome to eventually become – since 1975 until 1977 – assistant of the composer Nino Rota who supports and encourages him to dedicate himself to cinema score composition. At the end of the 70’s an intense collaboration with director Nanni Moretti begins. Another important encounter occurs in 1982 with Gianni Amelio, for whom Piersanti has composed scores of remarkable movies such as Il ladro di bambini and Le chiavi di casa. Many other directors, from Marco Tullio Giordana to Roberto Faenza, from Margarethe von Trotta to Ermanno Olmi appreciate his sober, refined and balanced style, and choose him to write scores for their works. Several classical music composers have found themselves – for need or passion reasons – to work for cinema. For instance Nino Rota with his strong relationship with Federico Fellini but also Alfred Schnittke who has worked with important directors such as Elem Klimov, Larisa Sepitko or Aleksander Mittà. Franco Piersanti’s language is certainly less impetuous and dramatic than Schnittke’s one and appears as a strongly introspective and contemplative one. 

In his new fascinating work “Requiem Marino”, presented on February 20 at the Aula Magna of the Università La Sapienza in Rome for the Istituzione Universitaria dei Concerti – Season of University Concerts Institution, it evokes Sofja Gubaidulina and Olivier Messiaen’s interior strength and spiritual power. In its conception for orchestra only, the new score also recalls the idea of “Requiem” for strings by Toru Takemitsu, Japanese author died in 1996 who has left in his composition heritage also some soundtracks including the one for the evocative Akira Kurosawa’s film Ran. Franco Piersanti’s work is a deep and engaging meditation about the sea, its huge size, its natural beauties as symbol of holidays and fun and, at the same time, bearer of biblical transfigurations and, with its impetuous and disruptive power, author and witness of shipwrecks and mournings striking many desperation journeys that leave Africa to move towards the dream of a better life.
The enveloping contemplative, introspective and expressive character of a music that sounds like suspended in time is shown by the long lines drawn by strings in an evocative contrast and featuring various instruments, with the tuba deep voice emerging among others, evoking the deep meaning of the tragedy of an existential pilgrimage showing itself in unlimited, hostile and mysterious size. Far from the blatant exuberance and intrusiveness of a large part of Hollywood music, Schnittke’s dialectic process or Morricone’s melodic pathos, the intimate and introspective character strongly marks also Piersanti’s music composed for cinema. Having lavished, in his career, many endeavours on cinema and tv with over one hundred scores, the maestro had to make a strict unavoidable selection for the concert. Therefore his extraordinary soundtracks composed for two amazing films such as La bestia nel cuore by Cristina Comencini and La stella che non c’è by Gianni Amelio have been excluded from the selection, as well as the one composed for Alberto Sironi’s successful tv film Il grande Fausto, dedicated to the unforgettable bycicle champion.
Wonderfully accompanied by the Orchestra Roma Sinfonietta, with his careful and extremely linear  gesture, the maestro initially conducts listeners into the moving and complex Gianni Amelio’s film universe, where the impetuous crescendo emerges and involves strings, flute and percussions in a refined dialogue that characterizes scores composed for the beautiful film Il ladro di bambini and the timbre refinement pervading scores for the images of Così ridevano.

Franco Piersanti e Gianni AmelioA symphomnic character, elegant instruments and a strong expressive and architectural autonomy characterize the Roman musician scores. The music composed for Nanni Moretti film Il caimano, performed as the final piece of the concert, sounds absolutely fascinating with its sober accents, rarefied atmospheres and nordic shades (think about the two composers Arvo Paert and Lepo Sumera) characterized by an internal restrained dramatic tension, beautifully connected to the film mood. In this regard it is remarkable to notice how the immanent expressive power of music and its touching architectural structure with symphonic features is engaging even when you just listen to it without images. 
Among his tv scores he picks the strong satirical power that surrounds the engaging march rhythm of the soundtrack for I ragazzi della Via Pal, Alberto Sironi’s film, music recalling Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, albeit keeping its impressive timbre and counterpoint authenticity.
The concert has probably reached its climax with the intriguing dance motion of the evocative tango, stunningly performed in an excellent and very refined orchestration and ideally transported into the tormented Sicilian territories of the Commissario Montalbano, beloved protagonist of Andrea Camilleri’s novels. The theme, initially played by piano, cello and accordion gradually involves woodwins, percussions and strings in the increasing whirlwind of a music plot with a remarkable and enthralling timbre fantasy, expressed in strong dramatic accents that, at some points, recall Bruckner outlines. The tango theme re-emerges in a very intimate atmosphere in the austere finale performed by violin and cello. In the end it has been a great music evening and we are grateful to the Istituzione Universitaria dei Concerti – University Concerts Institution  (www.concertiiuc.it) and we do call for an “encore!” for next year’s season.