Francesco Antonioni

Described as ”a composer who knows what he wants and how to achieve it”, (The Guardian) Francesco Antonioni has received commissions by major orchestras and music festivals around the world and his music has been played by Antonio Pappano, Vladimir and Dimitri Ashkenazy, George Benjamin, Evelyn Glennie, Yuri Bashmet and Beatrice Rana. 

Francesco Antonioni is a composer of orchestral and chamber music, ballet and opera.

His works have been commissioned by major orchestras and music festivals around the world, such as the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Rome), Ensemble Modern (Frankfurt), Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (UK), MiTo Settembre Musica (Turin and Milan), the Biennale di Venezia (2001, 2010, 2016), and Albany Symphony Orchestra (USA). His music has been performed by world renowned artists like Antonio Pappano, George Benjamin, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Evelyn Glennie, Yuri Bashmet, Beatrice Rana, and since 2009 has been represented and published by Ricordi.

Francesco Antonioni’s music originates from intellectual curiosity and cultural investigation, blending the complex rhythms of post-minimalism into melodies with Mediterranean roots and provenance.

In 2014, performances of Gli occhi che si fermano, conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano with the orchestra of Santa Cecilia, were highly acclaimed by public and critics alike: ’A consecration of a composer’, wrote the Corriere della Sera.

In January 2009, the premiere of Ballata, commissioned by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and conducted by George Benjamin, was highly praised by The Guardian: ‘A composer who knows exactly what he wants and how to achieve it’. 

This piece was also performed in the USA with Francesco himself conducting the Ensemble X at Cornell University, then in Italy at the RAI Nuova Musica festival in Turin, and again in the UK at Wigmore Hall, as part of the celebrations for the ‘George Benjamin Day’ in 2013. As a result of the success of the London performance, the RAI Orchestra was invited to present it at the Köln Philharmonie, in a programme featuring three generations of Italian composers, including works by Respighi and Berio, with works by Antonioni whose music follows this lineage.

Francesco’s music, with its rhythmical drive and lyrical character, is in high demand among choreographers and dancers. In 2006, he was commissioned to compose for the ballet season’s opening performance at the Arena di Verona. In 2012, a piece featuring thirteen female dancers was created in the form of Ballata. In December 2016, a dance piece choreographed by Simone Sandroni based on Macchine Inutili was sold-out at the Bielefeld opera theatre, in Germany.

His latest creation for the dance, the ballet Sylphidarium, choreographed by Francesca Pennini and CollettivOCineticO dance company, performed live with violin, drums and electronics, has been on tour in Italy and Europe since 2016. The ballet won the UBU Prize 2017 as best dance show. 

Francesco’s writing for strings has also received plaudits: ‘Whether sensuous or assertive, the string writing is wonderfully assured.’ (The Guardian). In addition to Ballata, for eight strings, Francesco was commissioned by Yuri Bashmet and the Moscow Soloists, who then gave the premiere of Sull’ombra, after John Donne, for string orchestra. 

His first string quartet, Morphing, was performed by the Smith Quartet (UK) and Cassat Quartet (USA) and his latest Concerto for viola, clarinet and strings Lights, after the thaw, was conducted and recorded by Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Initially trained as concert pianist, Francesco has a substantial catalogue of solo piano compositions. The series of Preludi Diatonici, composed between 2010 and 2013, has been performed by several pianists, including BBC New Generation Artist Beatrice Rana, at the Tonhalle Zurich, the Auditorium du Louvre, and the Radio France et Montpellier festival. The Preludes were also further performed in Milan, Florence, London, Paris, Dallas (Steinway Hall), and Reykjavik.

Macchine inutili, for ensemble, was published by Cantaloupe Records (USA). Commissioned in 2005 by the ensemble Sentieri Selvaggi, Macchine inutili has also been performed by many other ensembles, including The Knights at the MATA festival in New York. In the same year, the Ensemble Modern commissioned the ‘visual cantata' Codice Ovvio, based on Bruno Munari’s drawings, sketches and writings. It was staged at the Shauspielhaus in Frankfurt, under the supervision of Heiner Goebbels. 

Both compositions take their title from the groundbreaking designer and artist Bruno Munari, whose work represents a further source of inspiration for Francesco’s latest ensemble piece, Da cosa nasce cosa, commissioned for Milan Expo 2015, and performed at the Venice Biennale in 2016.

For the celebrations of the 150 years since the unification of Italy, Francesco was commissioned to write a piece for MiTo Settembre Musica festival along with other prominent composers including Andriessen, Pärt, Dusapin, Birtwistle, Daugherty, Hosokawa and Sciarrino. Benché’l parlar sia indarno for three female voices, speaker and two orchestras, finds Francesco's voice and personality embedded in the score as the ‘presenter’ of the piece. This composition has been performed in Turin and Milan and broadcast live.

Francesco’s catalogue includes several works for large orchestra: Giga commissioned by the Goethe Institut, the Ernst von Siemens Stiftung and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia orchestra, was performed in Rome in celebration of Hans Werner Henze's 80th birthday, under Pascal Rophé. Demand me Nothing an orchestral meditation on the character of Iago in Othello, opened the winter season of opera and ballet at the Arena di Verona in 2007, with choreography by Francesco Ventriglia.

Francesco’s Violin Concerto was premiered in 2002 by Lorenza Borrani, who later gave also the US premiere with the Albany Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Alan Miller. 

Born in 1971 Francesco took his first lessons in composition at early age. After pursuing his diplomas in Piano and Composition, he got a MA in composition at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, under the guidance of Azio Corghi, then went to London with a Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother scholarship to study with Julian Anderson and George Benjamin at the Royal College of Music, where he also won the Marjorie and Dorothy Whyte Memorial Award. From 2004 to 2008 Francesco was the composing assistant to Hans Werner Henze. Francesco’s cultural interests and the curiosity that underpins his music lead to him later to graduate in Philosophy. In 2013 he was invited as composer in residence to the Italian cultural institute in Paris.

As a full-time professor of composition at the Conservatory of Perugia (IT), Francesco has also taught Advanced Composition at the Dartington International Summer School (UK). He was also a visiting scholar at Cornell University (US) with a Fulbright grant.

Francesco lives in Rome and has established himself as a major cultural commentator in Italy, considered one of the most effective and engaging freelance presenters of classical and contemporary music on radio and television at RAI, the Italian state broadcaster.