Davide Fensi was one of the 120 students who attended the festival master classes. He took part in the composition master class held by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Christopher Austin along with three other students.
Davide has been attending the composition class at the Livorno Music Festival since it began in 2011. At the end of this year's course he was awarded a study grant by the festival for his achievements.
As I had spoken to the two prestigious teachers earlier in the week (see link), I was interested to hear about the experience from a student's point of view.
What made you enrol on this particular composition course?
I had heard a lot about Max's teaching and decided this was too good an opportunity to miss.
What were your impressions of the course and the teaching?
I found that this and the past courses have given me a training not only in composition, but above all in life. Max's approach is very unobtrusive: he doesn't say very much, but what he does say is extremely productive. It might seem superficial at first, but his input is something you have to reflect on and understand over time. It stays with you.
Chris has a more didactic approach. He gives very precise suggestions, tells you if your composition works or not, and shows you how it would work more effectively. He points out where the music we write would create a problem for the musician trying to execute it. He is very patient, and his constant energy and enthusiasm is incredible.
An integral part of this course has been working with the "E' Colpa Tua" quartet. Has that been a positive experience?
Yes, it is quite rare for a young composer in Italy to get to hear his/her music played. I was fortunate at the Cherubini music school in Florence, but in other parts of Italy it is possible to finish your music studies without ever having heard your work played. So having the quartet to work with has been invaluable.
What have you gained personally from these master classes?
Generally speaking, the course has helped me to get a clearer perspective on my work. Max and Chris have helped me to prune away the superfluous parts.
My music has changed. Through these courses I have succeeded in focussing on a way of composing that I didn't have before. I feel that I can really begin to make progress on my compositions now.
Is there anything about the course you would change?
I would have liked more time to dedicated to my composition. It would be useful to actually compose a piece during the course [students come to the course with a piece they have already composed]. It would be interesting in the future to see Chris Austin working on the technical side, and Maxwell Davies dedicating his time to talking about music and life, about the philosophy of music.
Is there a particular place or environment that inspires you?
Yes, I live in the countryside near Florence, and I love the nature there. I get inspiration from walking in the woods with my dog, or in the mountains. I'm never short of ideas, although of course I have to reject some of them.
What will you do with the study grant you have won this year?
I'll probably use it to travel. I'm considering the possibility of going abroad to do a Masters. Perhaps to the UK or to Denmark.
Unfortunately, there are not as many opportunities for composers in Italy. Everything is such a struggle. I think that, if you are good enough, it is easier to get recognition outside Italy.
To round off this year's master class in composition, a concert was held on Saturday 31st August in the auditorium of the Istituto Mascagni music school. The "E' Colpa Tua" quartet - four young but very accomplished musicians - played the pieces composed by the four master class students.The concert was introduced by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies who expressed his satisfaction with the course, highly praising both his students and the musicians. He also underlined the difficulties for young composers in Italy who rarely get to hear their music played. It is, he said, "like learning the violin without ever getting to hold the instrument."
Davide Fensi's fellow students were Matteo Savastano, Sara Caneva and Michele Sarti
The members of the E' Colpa Tua string quartet are Davide Dalpiaz, Elisa Marashi, Sofia Baumgartl and Lorenzo Cosi.
Many thanks to the organisers of the Livorno Music Festival for their collaboration, especially to Vittorio Ceccanti, president of the Amici della Musica di Livorno association, and Angeliki Lampiri for her friendly and efficient communication.