Friday, March 20, 2015

CCC 126 - Luigi Zaninelli

American composer Luigi Zaninelli is this week's Consonant Composer's Challenge. After 125 entries, some patterns have emerged -- although not the ones I expected. I thought that tonal composers would be grouped into generations, that consonance might be a trend (like atonality).

But that turned out not be the case. Living composers from their 20's through their 80's have been features in this series, and each one has used the concept of tonal centers in their own unique manner.
But there are some trends.

Composers who specialize in band and choral music tend to write tonal music more frequently than those who write for a broader range of forces. Most of Zaninelli's compositions (at least, the ones available to me for audition) are for symphonic wind ensemble. Zaninelli was brought to the Curtis Institute by Gian-Carlo Menotti, and shares his love of melody. Zaninelli's also written extensively for film (another genre that tends to favor tonal composers), and for a time served as the conductor/arranger for soprano Anna Moffo.

As might be expected, Zaninelli writes in a rather conservative -- and therefore quite accessible -- style. His melodies are fairly regular in structure, and are usually idiomatic to the instruments their written for.

Zaninelli studied in Rome when he was in his 20's. And he also wrote film scores for Italian productions. Some of that background can be heard in his "Roma Sacra."

Composing for symphonic winds requires a high degree of orchestral skill. It's not the same as writing for marching band. Zaninelli uses the ensemble effectively in his "Symphony for Winds and Percussion." The complexity of the material is indeed symphonic in nature, as is the structure.

In the "Concerto for Piano and Wind Ensemble" you can hear that while Zaninelli may cast his music in a tonal framework, but he's not constricted by it. The soloist is presented with some serious technical challenges.


Many composers such as Paul Hindemith and Vincent Persichetti have written for symphonic wind ensembles Zaninelli is an able proponent of the genre, and his music is widely performed. While the perception is that modern classical music is ugly and confrontational, there are whole genres where that's the exception, not the rule. Just ask any wind player.

Recommended Recordings 

The Music of Luigi Zaninelli

Modern Sounds

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