Giovanni Piacentini is a composer whose body of work is as diverse as his cultural background. Born in Mexico City to an Italian doctor, an opera lover, and a Mexican figurative painter, he was exposed to a wide array of artistic expressions that helped shape his musical vision.
As a 9-year-old, he picked up his aunt’s old guitar and played it until his fingertips were raw. He developed an intense love for the instrument which remains his main vehicle for discovering his sound. As a teenager, Piacentini was exposed to a myriad of musical genres ranging from his father’s opera and Italian song collection to Mexican folk music, Brazilian “bossa-nova,” and, of course, rock and roll. Having mastered some of the standard guitar repertoire, he began exploring the more contemporary guitar language of works by composers like Leo Brouwer, Toru Takemitsu, and Benjamin Britten.
A chance encounter in Rome with guitar great Eliot Fisk led to Piacentini’s invitation to study first at his seminar and eventually as Fisk’s full time student. At this time, Piacentini was already writing a few short pieces for other instruments and decided to devote his time entirely to writing music rather than becoming a concert guitarist.
He graduated summa cum laude from Berklee College of Music with a B.A. in composition and music synthesis. He went on to write his first instrumental compositions, “Chaotic Transformations” for two marimbas which premiered at the Boston Public Library, and “Tryptic” for piano trio. He also wrote his first solo guitar piece “Suite Lacanja,” a programmatic work inspired by the landscape of the Lacanja river in southern Mexico.
Piacentini dove deeper into the more experimental sounds of Ligeti and Xenakis while also exploring the late medieval and renaissance polyphony of Josquin des Prez and Palestrina. In a seminar with Mexican composer Victor Rasgado, he realized he needed to expand his knowledge and experience and decided to further his studies abroad. He sent samples of his work to a handful of established composers, including Dr. Richard Danielpour, who later invited him to study privately at his studio in New York City. Danielpour was instrumental in Piacentini’s discovery of his own compositional voice. Noticing a strong will, discipline, and a voracious appetite for learning, he encouraged Piacentini to apply to the Masters in Composition program at the Manhattan School of Music.
After an immersive two years in school and in the New York City composition circle, Piacentini earned his M.A. in Composition, graduating with honors. He edited works for guitar commissioned by Sharon Isbin and David Starobin. He assisted his mentor, Dr. Danielpour, with premieres including a piano concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic and a large scale oratorio with the Pacific Symphony. He performed as part of the Manhattan School of Music choir (directed by Kent Tritle) at Lincoln Center with the New York Philharmonic and at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
Since then, Piacentini has been very active as a composer, receiving commissions and working with a variety of ensembles including the harp duo, “Duo Scorpio” in New York City, the Irish violin and viola duet “Collailm Duo,” the concert series “Music of Reality” in Boston MA, acclaimed violinist Tim Fain, the “Mexiam” festival in San Francisco CA, the “Cuarteto Habana” in Havana, Cuba, and the UCLA wind ensemble. He is currently writing a Piano Concerto for Mexican pianist Rodolfo Ritter and the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico. His work “Alebrijes” for solo flute was featured in a dissertation thesis on emerging Latin American composers at the University of Utah.
Piacentini is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Music Composition at the University of California Los Angeles where he is also a teaching associate of music theory and aural skills.