Who: Composer and conductor Fabián Panisello, with the UC Davis Empyrean Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra
When and where: 7 p.m. Saturday, Vanderhoef Studio Theatre (Empyrean Ensemble), $20 general, $8 students; 7 p.m. Sunday, Jackson Hall (Symphony Orchestra), $12-$17 general, $8 students/children
Tickets: www.mondaviarts.org, (530) 754-2787
Composer and conductor Fabián Panisello is visiting UC Davis this week, and audiences have opportunities to hear him speak on Friday, listen to three of his chamber works on Saturday and enjoy his Violin Concerto on Sunday.
Panisello was born in Argentina, to a family of Italian heritage. He trained as a composer in Buenos Aires, then continued his studies in Austria, at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. He lives in Spain, where he leads the Madrid-based group PluralEnsemble, which focuses on 20th and 21st century music, and he has been guest conductor of numerous ensembles in Europe, Israel and elsewhere.
Along the way, Panisello has been associated with many of the big names in contemporary music. He studied under American composer Elliott Carter, a two-time Pulitizer Prize winner who is still composing at age 104. Panisello also studied under Brian Ferneyhough, the English composer who has taught at Stanford and Harvard.
Panisello received encouragement from the late Luciano Berio, an Italian composer and new music advocate; the two discussed early drafts of the score of Panisello’s Violin Concerto.
Panisello has worked with Polish festival with composer Krzysztof Penderecki and with the late German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. Panisello was co-conductor and orchestra coach for the premiere of two Stockhausen works, “Hoch-Zeiten” and “Mixtur 2003″ with the WDR Orchestra of Cologne and the Deutsche Symphonie of Berlin.
In 2008, French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez, who works with orchestras all over the world and has recorded extensively for major labels, premiered Panisello’s orchestra piece “Aksaks,” which Boulez had commissioned. Panisello studied conducting under Hungarian maestro Peter Eötvös, a 20th/21st century specialist, and Eötvös conducted the 2009 premiere of Panisello’s orchestra piece “Mandala.”
Carter, Ferneyhough, Berio, Penderecki, Stockhausen and Boulez are all composers known for writing music that can be quite complex and dense. Asked to describe his own music, Panisello said, “I work a lot with polymetrics. The influence is mainly from African music; I did my master’s work in Salzburg about African rhythm.”
He added that he works a lot with polyrhythms.
“Metrics is related to pulsation,” he explained, “and the organization of this pulsation. Almost equal pulses are organized through accents. You can superimpose different patterns with metrics, and get different accent patterns simultaneously.
“Rhythm is the relationship between accent and duration — you have different durations between points. I think it’s a symbol of will. With metrics and pulsation, it’s a biological issue. Our heart has a pulse. Our walking is pulsated. Metrics is the first step of artificiality in the pulse.
“That is why so much popular music uses metrics as a main point of reference — so you can sing and dance. But rhythm is more like thoughts. There is a rich conflict between rhythm and pulse and metrics.”
Panisello said he is working on a song cycle for baritone voice and piano that will include poems by Edgar Allan Poe.
“Poe’s approach to lost things and lost love is so accurate,” Panisello said, adding that this was what attracted him to Poe’s verse.
Audiences have three chances to catch Panisello this week:
* On Friday at 3 p.m., he will give a free lecture in Room 115 of the Music Building on the UCD campus.
* On Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre at the Mondavi Center, the Empyrean Ensemble will present a program that will include three of Panisello’s chamber works: “Cinco piezas métricas” (2000); “Il destino ineluttabile ogni cosa” for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano (2003); and the Cadenza from Panisello’s Violin Concerto (2002), which the composer describes as “a small scherzo in itself,” and is sometimes performed as a free-standing piece.
Also on the program will be Fred Lerdahl’s Duo for Violin and Piano (2005). Lerdahl will give a free talk at 4 p.m. Thursday in 203 Music.
Tickets for Saturday concert are $20 general, $8 for students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or (530) 754-2787. A pre-performance talk at 6:15 p.m. will include a discussion of the music with Panisello and Lerdahl.
* On Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall, the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra will perform, with Panisello conducting his own three-movement Violin Concerto (2002), featuring violinist Hrabba Atladottir.
The ensemble for the Violin Concerto will feature a compact ensemble including six violins — who sometimes band together and play as what the composer describes as a “hyperviolin” — plus three violas, two cellos, five percussionists and several other individual instruments.
Panisello also will conduct the full orchestra in a performance of the Bercuese and Finale from Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird” Suite, drawing on ballet music that Stravinsky composed in 1910 — music that was considered quite bold and adventuresome at that time, and has now become so popular that “Firebird” is often played at pops concerts.
Also Sunday, conductor Christian Baldini of UCD will conduct “Don Juan,” the tone poem for large orchestra by Richard Strauss that premiered in 1888, when the composer was 24. The piece begins in a spectacular manner with what program notes author Michael Steinberg described as “a fountain of 16th notes” that releases a “headlong melody … exemplifying the composer’s exhilarating orchestral virtuosity” while also “challenging performers to their limits.”
Baldini also will conduct the popular overture to Guiseppe Verdi’s otherwise seldom-performed opera “I vespri siciliani,” dating from 1855. Baldini and the orchestra will play the Verdi overture when they tour Spain in the spring.
The combination of the very modern Violin Concerto by Panisello, the 19th century Italian opera overture by Verdi, the German Romantic tone poem by Strauss and the distinctly Russian ballet music by Stranvinsky make for a program that will feature many different moods and textures.
Tickets for Sunday’s orchestra concert are $12-$17 general, $8 for students/children, available at www.mondaviarts.org or (530) 754-2787.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055.