Orchestral Music

2012 First Night at the Opera - An Opera in one Act

 Libretto by Derek Miller

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The opera was performed at Stanford University on

Saturday, February 23, 2013,  2:30 PM in Dinkelspiel Auditorium
Sunday, February 24, 2013,  8:00 PM in Dinkelspiel Auditorium
Saturday, March 2, 2013,  8:00 PM in Dinkelspiel Auditorium
Sunday, March 3, 2013,  2:30 PM in Dinkelspiel Auditorium

2009 Piccola Sinfonia per la Scuola Media

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  • I. Il Medio Evo – Allegro Moderato [listen] (midi)
  • II. Il Barocco – Poco Adagio [listen] (midi)
  • III. Il Contemporaneo – Tempo di Valzer [listen] (midi)

The composition is dedicated to Giovani Musicisti d’Europa.

(Commissione dell’Orchestra Regionale Umbra delle Scuole ad indirizzo Musicale, Direttore Filippo Salemmi e per l’Istituto Comprensivo “De Gasperi” Norcia, Dirigente Scolastico Prof. Rosella Tonti)

2009-10 Oxford Companions - An Opera in Three Acts

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  • Act 1 – A Man with a Mind [listen ]
  • Act 1 – The Walk Home [listen ]
  • Act 2 – The Anagram [listen ]
  • Act 3 – Neil on the Street [listen ]
  • Act 3 – The Bus Stop (Finale) [listen ]

Giancarlo Aquilanti – Composer Neil Van Leeuwen – Librettist

Our story takes place at Oxford University, focusing on three young adults whose families fell on opposite sides during the War. But they don’t become aware of this until they’ve already become friends and lovers. Marcus Liebkind is an American philosophy student with German roots. His father was a theologian who was put to death by Nazis in Munich for being in the Resistance. In Act I, Marcus meets Carlos and Amelia Davelon, Argentinean twins-also with German roots. Believing that their family moved to Argentina before the War, Marcus befriends both and falls in love with Amelia. At the beginning of Act II, Carlos discovers that Marcus and Amelia have become secretly engaged. Contrary to their expectations, he’s thrilled! He can think of no better brother-in-law than Marcus. Carlos sends word to his father, Heinrich, inviting him to England to meet his future son. Heinrich comes. But after an exuberant dinner celebrating the young couple, Heinrich lets slip that his family left Munich after the War. Marcus, suspicious and upset, and turns to drink with his friend Neil Hardingham, a lower-class jokester Brit who made it into Oxford to do mathematics. Neil suggests they play anagrams while drinking, turning the names of people they know into dirty words. After two rounds, Neil suggests they do “Davelon,” the last name of Carlos and Amelia. Marcus resists, but then discovers the crucial link: “Davelon” is an anagram for “von Adel.” Kommissar Heinrich von Adel was the Gestapo Chief in Munich during the War and signed off on his father’s execution. Act III begins with Marcus wandering the streets of Oxford. To his surprise, he finds himself at the Oxford Police Station. Entering, he tells the Chief of a Nazi criminal in England. The Chief puts him in touch with the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). The SIS operator tells him there is nothing they can do under British Law, but puts Marcus in touch with the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service. The British authorities can’t legally take action against Heinrich, but neither do they have to interfere with the Mossad. In the next scene, Heinrich is still in Oxford, admiring the architecture with his two children, when a mysterious character asks him about his identity. In a flash, two other agents appear and abduct Heinrich. Carlos attempts to fight back. When British authorities arrive, they see him fighting with one of the agents. They arrest Carlos while the agent gets away. Heinrich has vanished; Carlos is in jail. To make matters worse, the hoodlums sharing the holding cell with Carlos discover that he’s German. They too were toddlers during the War, and even lost family members. They take their festering anger out on Carlos, beating him so severely that he has to go to the hospital. In the penultimate scene, Marcus visits Carlos in the hospital to apologize for betraying his family. Carlos apologizes to him, saying he was self-deceived about his father’s identity. Carlos dies before Marcus’ eyes, and Marcus weeps. Amelia comes in, saying she still loves him. The lights on stage dim, as Marcus tells Amelia they can never be together because of their histories. The final scene is set fifty years in the future, in 2010. Marcus is an aging philosophy professor, walking down the street and reflecting on life. A student comes up to him, asking what action is right when the demands of love and justice conflict. Marcus says the only way to solve that dilemma is to avoid getting into it. Marcus continues on, arriving at a figure seated on a bus stop bench. That figure stands up and is none other than Amelia. They embrace, reunited. The opera ends with the Chorus:

We are all in life companions. Friendship is all we have to give. Brothers, sisters bonded to us: One world, one life, one hope to live

2007 Introitus - An American Overture

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The word Introitus, “entrance” refers to the opening of the celebration of the Roman Catholic Mass, specifically to the antiphon that is spoken or sung at the beginning of the celebration. In the musical idiom of Gregorian chant, the Introitus normally took the form of antiphon-verse-antiphon, and it was sung by two choirs. A slow modal melody is presented at the beginning of the composition in the string section, interrelated by the brass. A transgressive rhythm takes us away from the heavenly beginning while elements of jazz will capture the modernity of the composition. However, this frantically ambiguous contrast, almost a provocation for the listener, it is nothing but the development of the slow introduction; the musical elements of the initial melody are expanded with composition techniques such as the fugue, countermelodies and anxious rhythms. The under title, “An American Overture” was meant as a claim for the composer American experience – often his music is labeled as “Italian” when performed in the States and “American” when performed in Italy. The composition was commissioned by the “Filarmonica Marchigiana” Orchestra in Italy. Introitus has two versions: chamber orchestra, and symphony orchestra

2005 Mass: A Celebration of Life, for Soli, Choir and Orchestra

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The Mass is based on a joyful, syncopated rhythm. The melodic lines are beautiful, especially in the soprano and tenor solo parts. The choral part is very candid, following the traditional four-part writing. The orchestration is at times thick, relaying heavily on the percussion instruments. The intermezzo contrasts with the rest of the composition in the intricate contrapuntal writing for the divided string orchestra. The composition is available in three different versions: Solos, Chorus, Piano and Percussions Solos, Chorus and Chamber Orchestra Solos, Chorus and Symphony Orchestra The composition is dedicated to the memory of Massimo Archetti.

2005 Intermezzo for String Orchestra

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The Intermezzo is part of “Mass: a Celebration of Life”. It is written for a double string orchestra. The intensity of the high violins in the beginning, the intricate counterpoint and the passion of the middle section leads the audience to a journey of deep meditation.

2001 Pater Noster, for Solo, Choir and Orchestra

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This composition is based on the traditional text of the Lord’s Prayer. It is scored for a Soprano Solo, 2 French Horns and String Orchestra. A piano reduction is also available.

1998 Jesi in Festa - Scherzo Musicale per Orchestra

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Jesi is an exciting little town along the Adriatic Coast of Central Italy. It is where I grew up, where I lived most of my life, and where my dearest friends still are. In September Jesi hosts an exhilarating festival called Le Fiere di San Settimio. For three days, a gigantic flee market invades every corner of the town, bands play up and down the streets, folk music groups perform local songs, choirs sing inside churches, and kids play in the streets. Jesi in Festa tries to re-create that atmosphere. The composition is embedded with tunes I remember hearing during those festive days. In this composition, one can hear the Jesi Band roaming up and down the streets, the Regina Della Pace choir singing in the church, the Music Folk Group La Macina singing local songs, and if one is careful, he can even hear the street vendors trying to sell you something. Due to its complexity and to the juxtaposition of different themes and colors, I consider this composition a masterpiece of orchestration. A great addition to any orchestra concert. The composition is dedicated to my daughter Alessandra who encouraged me to write it.

1997 Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra

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I.Lento – Allegro con Swing – Lento II.Allegro Spiritoso The first movement starts with a beautiful melody line, which soon moves into a driving and jazzy rhythm. A challenging cadenza based on double stops closes the first movement. The second movement has a Stravinskian mode, with sudden changes of moods and moments of folkloristic references of the composer Italian home town of Jesi.

1994 Se Potessi - Three Songs for Soprano, French Horn and String Orchestra

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1994-1996 Lot's Women - An Opera in Three Acts

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The opera is a re-working of the tale of Lot, found in the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament. The tale of Lot and his family, while relatively brief in its original telling, reverberates in much of Western culture. It is used especially as a tale of caution, as Lot’s wife defies the warning that she not look back on the city and life she is fleeing. No motivation is suggested as to why the wife looks back, nor is a reason given for Lot’s daughters subsequent seduction of their drunken father. One can hear the profound inspiration of the Italian operatic tradition born of early cultural experience, although the music is much influenced by an American education. The vocal lines of the five main characters and the chorus are quite demanding. The ranges explore the highest sonority in the sopranos, as well as the lowest in the basses. Strong and clashing dissonances are used to emphasize dramatic moments such as the transformation of the wife into a pillar of salt. The full orchestra can be considered another character of the opera, playing a central role in the development of the story.