Born (in 1950) and educated in Rome, since about forty years Franco Piersanti is one of the most original voices in the Italian and European milieau of applied music (cinema, theatre, television). Curious and consistent author, able to show a sharp irony and a Stravinskij-style angularity as well as to melt into a measured, melancholic and disarminglyricism, a personal and evocative language makes Piersanti stand out, with halftones, composing refinements and timbre suggestions which on one side show the (praised) legacy of the historical twentieth century and on the other draw on the broad heritage of Mediterranean music. Such a process preserves communication spontaneity and music for screen can thus explore the complexity and inconsistencies of the human soul with an almost surgical precision – and at the same time with a sort of “expressive discretion” – but also understand the core of films settings he was involved in, without indulging in figurative methods.
Searching for a more “evocative” than “assertive” writing style, Piersanti has always tried to keep himself at a distance from the traditional rhetoric of background music: in this perspective his poetics has developed intertwining itself with the poetics of two film-makers (Nanni Moretti and Gianni Amelio) who, to varying degrees, have turned expressive minimalism into their signature style.
Being Nino Rota’s assistant between 1975 and 1977, Piersanti achieves films score with Io sono un autarchico, Moretti’s first feature film (1976), marking the beginning of their successful collaboration ad continuing with Ecce Bombo (1978), Sogni d’oro (1981), Bianca (1984) and, several years later, Il caimano (2006) and Habemus Papam (2011).
Another partnership starts soon with Gianni Amelio and his films Colpire al cuore (1982), I velieri (1982), Porte Aperte (1990), Il ladro di bambini (1992), Lamerica (1994), Così ridevano (1998), Le chiavi di casa (2004), La stella che non c’è (2006), Il primo uomo (2011), L’intrepido (2013).
«I have always related» Piersanti writes «these two directors, very different from each other, to the combination of reflection and inspiration, strictness and fantasy in its genuine meaning». Other experiences are as much as important for his career, such as the ones with Ermanno Olmi Il segreto del bosco vecchio (1993); Bernardo Bertolucci Io e te (2012); Daniele Luchetti Mio fratello è figlio unico (2007), La nostra vita (2010), Anni felici (2013); Carlo Lizzani Mamma Ebe (1986), Emma (1988); Cristina Comencini Il più bel giorno della mia vita (2002), La bestia nel cuore (2005); Mimmo Calopresti La seconda volta (1995), La parola amore esiste (1998), Preferisco il rumore del mare (2000), La felicità non costa niente (2003); Marco Tullio Giordana Sanguepazzo (2008), Romanzo di una strage (2012); Roberto Faenza Marianna Ucria (1998); Carlo Mazzacurati L’amore ritrovato (2004); Margarethe Von Trotta Paura e amore (1988); Emanuele Crialese Terraferma (2011); Marco Risi Il branco (1994), Fortapàsc (2009); Paolo Virzì Tutta la vita davanti (2008).
Among tv works it is worth mentioning the ones with Alberto Sironi Il grande Fausto (1995), Il commissario Montalbano (1999-2016), Eroi per caso (2011) and Maurizio Zaccaro Cuore (2003), I ragazzi della via Pàl (2003).
As far as the series based on Andrea Camilleri’s novels – now at its tenth season and exported to 19 countries – is concerned, it is important to underline the determining contribution of Piersanti’s music in recalling on the screen Montalbano’s Sicily as a “literary archetype”, plausible just because lacking of popular or genre clichés.
In relation to animated films it is worth mentioning the evocative scores written for Corte Sconta detta Arcana (Pascal Morelli (2001) based on Corto Maltese namesake episode drawn by Hugo Pratt). Franco Piersanti’s scores were awarded several national and international awards, including the “UCMF – Union Des Compositeurs De Musiques De Films” award for the best Film Music at the Cannes Film Festival 2007, three “David di Donatello”, two “Grolle d’oro”, two “Nastri d’argento”, seven “Ciack d’oro”, one “Globo d’oro”, three “Ennio Morricone” awards at Taormina International Film Fest and many others, as well as several nominations.
Since the 1970’s Piersanti has composed both for cinema and theatre, and as far as the latter is concerned it is worth mentioning, among the most prestigious compositions, the ballet Sueño, inspired by Francisco Goya’s work, for Martha Graham Dance Company – New York (2005), Kaos, inspired by Luigi Pirandello’s work, for Martha Clarke – New York (2006), as well as scores for about fifty theatre stagings, including: The serpent woman by Carlo Gozzi (1979), King Nicolo by Frank Wedekind (1982), Turcaret by Alain-René Lesage (1981) and Acharnians by Aristophanes (1994) – all directed by Egisto Marcucci, Carlo Cecchi Il coraggio di un pompiere napoletano by Eduardo Scarpetta (1986), The Tempest (1984), Hamlet (1989), Leonce and Lena by Georg Büchner (1994), A midsummer night’s dream (1997), The world saved by kids by Elsa Morante (1998).
Franco Piersanti’s concert music catalogue includes several orchestral and chamber compositions, for instance: Ruah, cantata sugli effetti del vento sul mare e la terra, for soloists and orchestra (1988), Night with guests – in verses and music – from Peter Weiss 1978; Rorate Coeli sacred cantata for soloists choir and orchestra, Last Blues to be read some day, a cycle of operas for soprano and piano with texts by Cesare Pavese, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Eugenio Montale, Aldo Palazzeschi; Alfonso Gatto (1973) La Malinconia e la sua cura, for violin and string orchestra commissioned by RadioFrance 2008, Requiem marino for violin and orchestra (2010), composition
dedicated to «the people who, still nowadays, try to escape from suffering and, longing for a better life, end up losing their lives on the seabed».
Despite didactic work is not a frequent activity, Piersanti held cinema composition courses together with the musicologist Sergio Miceli in Canosa di Puglia (Multimediarte), Ascoli Piceno (Conservatory “G. Spontini”), Fiesole (CRSDM), Milano (Civic School of Music “Claudio Abbado”).
In 2012 he has established the “Georges Méliès” Youth Orchestra.
Conceived to draw public attention to the future of young musicians, the orchestra has unfortunately not lasted long due to organizational and economic problems.