Francesco Zago

Francesco Zago (Milan, 1972) is a pianist, classical and electric guitarist, composer, arranger and producer. He is currently attending the two-year piano course at the G. Verdi Conservatory in Como under the guidance of Maestro Daniela Manusardi.
After graduating in philosophy of science in 1998 at the Catholic University in Milan, he graduated in classical guitar in 1999 under the guidance of Agostina Mari at the Civica Scuola di Musica in Milan. Later he specialized in electric modern and contemporary repertoire. With Maestro Renato Rivolta he studied modern and contemporary chamber music (1999-2002) and orchestra conducting (2008-2010).
Since 2010 he’s been teaching electric guitar, improvisation and crossover chamber music at the Civica Scuola di Musica «C. Abbado» in Milan. At the same school, he holds guitar courses as part of the three-year AFAM. In 2017 he held an improvisation masterclass at the «G. Verdi» Conservatory of Como in collaboration with Maestro Pierfrancesco Forlenza.
Since the early ’90 he has been part of several rock bands, with whom he has played throughout Europe. Between 1997 and 2021 he released over twenty CDs, as a composer, guitarist or producer.
From 1993 to 2000 he was part of Night Watch, with whom he released the CD Twilight (1997).
In 2005 he established the ensemble Yugen, which has so far released five CDs (Labirinto d’acqua, Yugen plays Leddi, Iridule, Mirrors, Death by Water).
In 2006 he founded the improvisation duo Zauss with Swiss saxophonist Markus Stauss, releasing five CDs on the Swiss label Fazzul.
In 2012 he joined Stormy Six, historical formation of the Rock in Opposition movement, with whom he published, together with Moni Ovadia, the cd/dvd Benvenuti nel ghetto (2013).
He was also guitarist, songwriter and lyricist of Not a Good Sign, with whom he released two CDs for the AltrOck/Fading label.
Other projects are Kurai (2009) and Empty Days (2013), the latter with the American singer Elaine Di Falco.
Since 2013 he has been part of Red Rex, playing the early music of King Crimson in various Italian cities, including Milan and Rome.
In 2014 he collaborated as arranger of the orchestral sections and conductor for the Italian group Gran Turismo Veloce.
In 2015 he gave life to the Barrakha Epos, together with Umberto Fiori and Pino Martini, with the show A rapporto, presented in September 2016 in Seneghe as part of the festival Cabudanne de sos Poetas.
Between 2019 and 2023 he collaborated on three CDs (Mysoginia, Kamasutra, 30th) of the Turin group Syndone for the orchestral parts, conducting the Budapest Scoring Orchestra.
In 2005 he founded, together with Marcello Marinone, the record label AltrOck Productions, devoted to alternative music and which today has over sixty CDs in the catalog.
He has worked with numerous chamber ensembles, with which he has carried out an intense concert activity as a classical and electric guitarist. In particular, since 2008 he has collaborated with the electric ensemble RepertorioZero, with whom he played for MITO (2008), at the Zurich Tonhalle (2009), Conservatory of Lugano (2009), Piccolo Teatro Studio (Milano Musica, 2014), Klangspuren Schwaz (2015), GAIDA (Vilnius, 2015), Archipel (Geneva, 2016). With the same group he recorded the cd Dulle Griet (Æon, 2013) with music by Giovanni Verrando.
With Renato Rivolta he founded the electro-acoustic ensemble Off Topic, with which in 2014 he produced the show Crossfade – Oltre le avanguardie for the San Fedele Cultural Center (Milan). For the same Center he played as a soloist at the Inner Spaces festival (March 2015), with music by Steve Reich and Henry Purcell, and for Double Portrait – Bach Scarlatti (October 2015) with the concert Chaconne Perspective, alongside the French harpsichordist Jean Rondeau. In the 2016 edition he presented a reinterpretation of Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten. In March 2023 he performed his arrangement for electric guitar of Franz Liszt’s Via Crucis together with the ensemble Il Canto di Orfeo directed by Gianluca Capuano.
In ESP – Electric Solo Performance Zago plays the role of soloist, alternating compositions of the contemporary repertoire, improvisation, arrangements and his original compositions.
In 2014 he produced, together with the British singer Rachel O’Brien, the show Purcell & Dowland at the Teatro Binario 7 in Monza.
He collaborates with the Associazione Musicale Ricerca of Cislago (Varese) for which he produced the Kitchen Music concert, with music by Nyman, Satie, Bach, Dowland, Cage and Zago himself (October 2015).
In 2015, with guitarist and lutenist Elisa La Marca, he presented in Bergamo the duo Not So Loud, which reworks the Renaissance and Baroque repertoire (Francesco da Milano, Bach, Dowland, Corelli, Falconieri).
Since 2016 he collaborates with guitarist Andrea Bolzoni, with whom he published BolZago – Music from the Lounge (2023). In 2016, with pianist Elena Talarico, he founded the duo KUBIN, which offers pieces of the «cultured» twentieth century (Bartók, Pärt, Tüür, Ligeti, Ginastera, among others) alongside transcriptions of the most advanced rock. In 2019, with the Da Vinci Publishing label, the duo released the CD The Other Side, with several world premieres. The duo also offers a twentieth-century program for 4 hands piano.
In 2017 he produced I Dream Awake, collecting chamber music by the American composer Bill Whitley. The CD was released by the US label Ravello in 2017. By the same composer he produced the song Absent Light, included in the compilation Mind & Machine (Ravello, 2018) and the cd Elephant Speaks (Ravello, 2019).
In 2019, with the artist and director Davide Pizzigoni, he founded the Ars Electrica ensemble, which offers Renaissance and modern music in an electro-acoustic key. The ensemble made its debut in June 2019 at Milano Santa Giulia, curated by Risanamento Spa.
He has premiered performances by Giovanni Verrando, Riccardo Nova, Nadir Vassena, Andrea Agostini, Carlo Ciceri, Michele Sanna, Alessio Sabella, Erin Gee, Mathias Steinhauer, Daniela Terranova, Sam Hayden, Luca Valli, Jean-François Laporte, Gian Luca Ulivelli, Stefano Barontini.
As a composer and arranger, he works for videos and installations. He collaborated with Studio Azzurro (Inside the Last Supper – The XIII Witness; Galileo – Studi per l’inferno) and works permanently with the videomaker Mara Colombo. In recent years he produced music and sounds for the videos of Carla Della Beffa (Business as Usual, The 4-Minute Proust). In 2015, with Carla Della Beffa and Tommaso Fiori, he produced the video-installation Blister, taking part to several international competitions. In 2016 he collaborated on the creation of Dress Code and Timeline.
One of his songs, Cloudscape, was included in the soundtrack of the documentary The Gospel According to Ralphael (2016), by Torben Bernhard (OHO Media).
His electric guitar arrangement of John Dowland’s Flow my Tears was used in Salvatore Garau’s film The Canvas (2016).
Since 2018 he’s been collaborating with the writer Marco Albino Ferrari in a series of shows about mountains. In 2021 he produced La neve delle rondini, in collaboration with the Val Grande National Park.

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