Fabio Vacchi

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Fabio Vacchi (pronounced "Vahkie") (born 1949 in Bologna), is an Italian composer.


Training and debut[edit]

Fabio Vacchi studied at the Conservatorio Giovanni Battista Martini of Bologna with Giacomo Manzoni and Tito Gotti. In 1974 he participated in the courses of the Tanglewood Festival in the United States, where he was awarded the Koussevitzky Prize in Composition.[citation needed] In 1976 he won first prize at the Gaudeamus Composition Competition in the Netherlands, with the work Les soupirs de Geneviève for 11 string soloists, and in the same year he wrote Sinfonia in quattro tempi for the Venice Biennale Festival, which thereafter dedicated to him two concerts exclusively of his works in the 1978 and 1979 seasons.

From the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino to the Vienna Philharmonic[edit]

He debuted at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Festival in 1982 with Girotondo, an opera in two acts with a libretto adapted from Arthur Schnitzler. Following this opera come, in the 1990s, Il Viaggio, La station thermale, produced afterwards at the La Scala Opera House, and Les oiseaux de passage, and in 2003 Il letto della Storia, with a libretto by Franco Marcoaldi and stage direction by Giorgio Barberio Corsetti. For this opera he received the Abbiati Prize from the National Association of Italian Critics for the best new work of the year. The partnership with Marcoaldi has continued, bringing about such works as Terra comune (which, at the request of Luciano Berio, inaugurated Rome's Auditorium Parco della Musica in 2002, and Tre Veglie (1998) commissioned by the Salzburg Festival. Vacchi's music was again heard at the Salzburg Festival in the Summer of 2006, this time during the celebrations of the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth, with a performance by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Riccardo Muti, of the piece La giusta armonia, a melologue with narrator and orchestra based on a text by the proto-socialist intellectual Franz Heinrich Ziegenhagen, who was a friend of Mozart.

Works of societal commitment[edit]

In addition to the piece, Muti, which he conducted as Music Director of the Filarmonica della Scala, he also conducted Diario dello Sdegno (Teatro alla Scala, 2003), written by Vacchi in the emotional aftermath of September 11, 2001 and the international conflicts that followed. After its première in Milan, this piece was performed in Brussels during Italy's turn of holding the presidency of the European Union. Ethical themes are dear to Vacchi and they are evident in other compositions of his, such as Irini, Esselam, Shalom (2004) for voice, violin and orchestra, which deals with the theme of peace, reflecting upon sagely texts of the monotheistic religions. Another similar piece was Dai calanchi di Sabbiuno for chamber ensemble, which was composed for the Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Italian Resistance (Teatro alla Scala, 1995) and has been performed more than 100 times throughout the world, also in the version for full orchestra requested by Claudio Abbado.

Chamber works and film music[edit]

On a commission from Abbado, Vacchi then composed Briefe Büchners, a cycle of lieder which was performed by the Berliner Philharmonie in 1998. These lieder are fruits of the period in which he concentrated on the production of chamber music. Other such works include, among others, the Third String Quartet (2002) written for the Tokyo String Quartet, which was conferred the Annual Lully Award in 2003 for the best new work of the year performed in the United States, and the Fourth Quartet (2004), commissioned by RAI Radio for the 80th anniversary of Italian radio. Part of Luoghi immaginari, which was composed between 1987 and 1992 and consists of various pieces for various instrumental formations, was included, along with other works of Vacchi, in the soundtrack of The Profession of Arms by Ermanno Olmi. For this film, which marked the beginning of his collaboration with the art form of film, Vacchi was awarded the David di Donatello for Best Score of the year. 2005 saw him awarded again, this time by the RDC Awards, for his music in Patrice Chéreau’s film Gabrielle. Also by Vacchi is the soundtrack of Centochiodi (2007), Olmi's latest work.

Other news[edit]

Worthy of mention is the recent Voci di notte (2006), commissioned and performed by the Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, on occasion of the 70th birthday of their conductor Zubin Mehta. Mehta is one of many conductors, such as Berio, Chung, Fischer, Harding, Marriner, Pappano and, as already mentioned Muti and Abbado, who have conducted Vacchi's music various times.


Since his early compositions, Fabio Vacchi has taken on the challenge of reaching beyond the closed and inside circle of connoisseurs, maintaining the objective of writing music for those who do not habitually listen to contemporary music (adapting to music the ideas of Hans Magnus Enzensberger). His creative process, rather than radically rejecting traditional codes, seeks to privilege a focus on the material, understood as an attention given to sound and to the human body that is that sound's very destination. Vacchi, thus, believes that it is indispensable not to overlook the psycho-acoustic parameters that allow music to reach the listener and stimulate his or her senses. Such techniques include the repetition of certain elements as the work unfolds and the insertion of continuous but recognizable sonorous material, so as to keep the listener attentive and alert.

In Vacchi's conception of music, the sonorous material that a composer chooses to utilize is less important than the way in which it is presented: the work's form must communicate a sense of itself and must establish a system in which there is expectation and surprise, surprise having always been an expressive, communicative, and dramatic device used by many composers, even if unconsciously so.

In the Vacchi's own words,

only music that is capable of setting in motion the listener’s senses and emotional perception can aspire to beauty; as such music is an asset that concerns us all, because then it allows us to live. The inhabitants of a world that is disenchanted, as ours is, still need fables. Granted these fables are no longer tales of fairies and witches, they still, however, need to arouse wonder. Thus, we must both take beauty back and follow the new roads created by the Avant-Garde without allowing, however, that the new expressive freedom therein be self-gratifying, that is, being transgression for transgression’s sake. It is important to aim instead towards a gradual transformation that is incessant and substantial.

This, believes Vacchi, is the road to take, a road he sees leading to an identity in which esthetics and ethics, and beauty and social commitment all come together, an identity in line with the important classical-Greek concept of kalòs, such that music becomes

a point of contact between the power of amazing us and the need for us to see ourselves in the Other, leaving behind the feverish egotism of a power that, like a cancerous growth, erects insuperable walls between people of different sexes, races, and social classes.


Fabio Vacchi's music shows an extremely personal and recognizable style resulting from a particular interaction of harmonic, structural, and timbral preferences.

Behind a “siren-like lyricism”[2] in his works, one finds a rigorous structure which stems from the selection, within the sphere of total chromaticism, of an elaborated harmonic plane, according to the criteria of circularity, transposition, and simultaneity, so as to generate a network of contrapuntal thematic lines.

This expressive material constitutes the breeding ground for the ideas that provoke the work's development. Herein an important role is played also by particular timbral combinations, resulting not only from the use of innovative techniques of sound production, but also from his experience in the field of electro-acoustic analysis and in the field of the physics of sound, experience acquired during his studies in electro-acoustics in Fribourg, where he was invited by Luigi Nono.

Prizes and acknowledgements[edit]


Title Soloists Orchestra / Ensemble Conductors Release Label
Luoghi immaginari Marco Lazzara EnsembleMusica20 Guido Guida, Mauro Bonifacio 1996 BMG Ricordi CRMCD 1043
Suite in "2xMöller" Duo2xM - - 1996 nosag CD 054
La station thermale Cécile Besnard, Christophe Lacassagne, Pomone Epoméo, Catherine Renerte Orchestre de l'Opéra de Lyon Claire Gibault 1998 BMG Ricordi 74321356142 (2 CDs)
Wanderer Oktett – Dionysos - Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana, Contempoartensemble, Agon Acustica Informatica Musica Emilio Pomarico, Mauro Ceccanti 2000 Stradivarius STR 33597
Movimento di quartetto in "Quartetti per archi: Schubert, Vacchi, Ligeti" - Quartetto Savinio - 2004 Paragon, CD supplement for Amadeus magazine, June 2004 SMF 001-2
Gabrielle Raina Kabaivanska, Pavel Vernikov Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano "G.Verdi" Claire Gibault 2005 Sony BMG 82876730902
Quintetto in "Rotte sonore" - Dedalo Ensemble Vittorio Parisi 2007 Stradivarius STR 33747
Mignon (Über die Sehnsucht) in "La voce contemporanea in Italia vol.3" Tiziana Scandaletti, Riccardo Piacentini - - 2007 Stradivarius STR 33769
Luoghi immaginari Marco Lazzara EnsembleMusica20, Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana Guido Guida, Mauro Bonifacio 2007 Stradivarius STR 57005

See also[edit]


  1. ^ MARILENA LATERZA, Fabio Vacchi. Luoghi immaginari, altremusiche.it: 2007 Archived 2008-05-11 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ ENZO RESTAGNO in GIORGIO PESTELLI, FRANCO PULCINI, Le ragioni del canto, Torino: 1996

External links[edit]

Biographical profiles and essays[edit]

Listenings and videos[edit]