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Famous Like Me > Composer > D > Luigi Dallapiccola

Profile of Luigi Dallapiccola on Famous Like Me

Name: Luigi Dallapiccola  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 3rd February 1904
Place of Birth: Pisino, Istria, Croatia
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Luigi Dallapiccola (February 3, 1904 – February 19, 1975) was an Italian composer known for his lyrical twelve-tone compositions.


Unlike many composers born into highly musical environments, Dallapiccola's early musical career was irregular at best. Political disputes over his birthplace of Istria, then part of the Austrian empire, led to instability and frequent moves. His father was headmaster of an Italian-language school – the only one in the city – which was shut down at the start of World War I. The family, considered politically subversive, was placed in internment at Graz, Austria, where the budding composer hadn't even access to a piano, though he did attend performances at the local opera house, which cemented his desire to pursue composition as a career. Once back to his hometown of Pisino (now Pazin, Croatia) after the war, he travelled frequently.

Dallapiccola took his piano degree at the Florence Conservatory in the 1920s and became professor there in 1931; until his 1967 retirement he spent his career there teaching lessons in piano as a secondary instrument, replacing his teacher Ernesto Consolo as the older man's illness prevented him from continuing. He also studied composition with Vito Frazzi at the Conservatorio Luigi Cherubini. Dallapiccola's students include Abraham Zalman Walker and Luciano Berio.

Dallapiccola's early experiences under the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini would color his outlook and output for the rest of his life. He once supported Mussolini, believing the propaganda, and it was not until the 1930s that he would become passionate about his political views, in protest to the Abyssinian campaign and Italy's involvement in the Spanish Civil War. Mussolini's sympathy with Adolf Hitler's views on race, which threatened his Jewish wife Laura Luzzatto, only cemented his stance. Canti di prigionia and Il prigionero are reflections of this impassioned concern; the former was his first true protest work.

During World War II he was in the dangerous position of opposing the Nazis; though he tried to go about his career as usual, and did, to a limited extent, although on two occasions he was forced to go into hiding for several months. Dallapiccola would continue his touring as a recitalist – but only in countries not occupied by the Nazis.

Though it was only after the war that his compositions made it into the public eye (with his opera Canti di prigionera sparking his fame), it was then that his life would be relatively quiet. He made frequent travels to the United States, including appearances at Tanglewood and several semesters of teaching courses in composition at Queens College, New York beginning in 1956. He was a sought-after lecturer throughout Western Europe and the Americas. Dallapiccola's 1968 opera Ulisse would be the peak of his career, after which his compositional output would be sparse; his later years were largely spent writing essays rather than music.

He had no more finished compositions after 1972 due to his failing health, until he died in Florence in 1975 of edema of the lungs; however, there are a very few sketches and fragments of work from this time, including a vocal work left unfinished just hours before he passed on.


It was Richard Wagner's music that inspired Dallapiccola to start composing in earnest, and Claude Debussy's that caused him to stop: hearing Der fliegende Holländer while exiled to Austria convinced the young man that composition was his calling, but after first hearing Debussy in 1921 he stopped composing for three years in order to give this important influence time to sink in. The neoclassical works of Ferruccio Busoni would figure prominently in his later work, but his biggest influence would be the ideas of the Second Viennese School, which he encountered in the 1930s, particularly Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Dallapiccola's works of the 1920s have been withdrawn, with the instruction that they never be performed, though they still exist under controlled access for study.

His works widely use the serialism developed and embraced by his idols; he was, in fact, the first Italian to write in the method, and the primary proponent of it in Italy, and he developed serialist techniques to allow for a more lyrical, tonal style. Throughout the 1930s his style developed from a diatonic style with bursts of chromaticism to a consciously serialist outlook. He went from using twelve-tone rows for melodic material to structuring his works entirely serialist. With the adoption of serialism he never lost the feel for melodic line that many of the detractors of the Second Viennese School claimed to be absent in modern dodecaphonic music. His disillusionment with Mussolini's regime effected a change in his style: after the Abyssinian campaign he claimed that his writing would no longer ever be light and carefree as it once was. While there are later exceptions, particularly the Piccolo concerto per Muriel Couvreux, this is largely the case.

Liriche Greche (1942-45), for solo voice with instruments, would be his first work composed entirely in this twelve-tone style, composed concurrently with his last original purely diatonic work, the ballet Marsia (1943). The following decade showed a refinement in his technique and the increasing influence of Webern's work. After this, from the 1950s on, the refined, contemplative style he developed would characterize his output, in contrast to the more raw and passionate works of his youth. Most of his works would be songs for solo voice and instrumental accompaniment. His touch with instrumentation is noted for its impressionistic sensuality and soft textures, heavy on sustained notes by woodwinds and strings (particularly middle-range instruments, such as the clarinet and viola).

The three political operas Canti di prigionia, Il prigionero, and Canti di liberazione form a trilogy, though the temporal and stylistic separation between the first two and the third make the set seem less than cohesive. Ulisse, with his own libretto after The Odyssey, was the culmination of his life's work. It was composed over 8 years, including and developing themes from his earlier works, and was his last major composition.

Selected works

  • Musica per tre pianoforti (1935), three pianos
  • Tre laudi (1936-7), voice and 13 instruments
  • Volo di Notte (1938), one-act opera
  • Canti di prigionia (1938-41), opera
  • Piccolo concerto per Muriel Couvreux (1939-41), piano and chamber orchestra
  • Liriche Greche (1942-5),
  • Marsia (1943), ballet
  • Il prigionero (1944-8), opera.
  • Quattro liriche di Antonio Machado (1948), soprano and piano
  • Job (1950), opera
  • Tartiniana (1951), violin and orchestra
  • Canti di liberazione (1951-5), opera.
  • Quaderno musicale di Annalibera (1952), solo piano, featuring the BACH motif
  • An Mathilde (1955), soprano and orchestra
  • Tartiniana seconda (1955-6), violin and orchestra
  • Cinque canti (1956), baritone and 8 instruments
  • Requiescant (1957-8), chorus and orchestra
  • Three Questions With Two Answers (1962), orchestra
  • Preghiere (1962), baritone and chamber orchestra
  • Ulisse (1960-8), opera
  • Sicut umbra (1970), mezzo-soprano and 12 instruments


  • Dallapiccola on Opera, Selected writings of Luigi Dallapiccola, Vol 1, Toccata Press (1987)
  • Dallapiccola on Music and Musicians, Selected writings of Luigi Dallapiccola, Vol. 2, Toccata Press

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Luigi Dallapiccola