Niccolò Castiglioni was an Italian composer who began his career writing Neo-Classical music, moved to the 12-tone technique, then created an unusual mixture of avant-garde techniques and late-Romantic expression.
Castiglioni received his musical education at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan, where he studied with Ghedini, Margola, Fuga, and Desderi in composition and Lidia Zambelli in piano. He then took advanced studies at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, where his teachers included Franz Gulda and Boris Blacher. He also attended the summer courses at Darmstadt, the center of serial music at the time.
He began his professional musical career as a pianist. His first major work was an opera, Uomini e no (1955). In 1961, his compositional career became established when he won the Italia Prize for his radio opera Attraverso lo specchio (Through the Looking-Glass), which was followed by another opera inspired by Lewis Carroll, Jabberwocky (1962).
As he began incorporating serial technique into his Neo-Classical style, he also explored the roots of Schoenberg's 12-tone method by a study of late-Romantic music, with the result that the orchestral music of this period became central to his way of musical thinking. Eventually, he studied other trends of modern music, including the play element of John Cage, the group or block thinking of Karlheinz Stockhausen, a Neo-Impressionistic orchestral style, and the modal and harmonic ideas (as well as the orchestral colorations) of Olivier Messiaen.
As his career went on, he had a greater propensity to use the contrasts between these techniques as formal or structural factors in their own right. As a writer about music (he worked also a music critic) he was one of the first leaders of post-War music to treat Anton Webern as considerably less than the central figure in musical evolution (as most commentators of the time saw him).
He wrote at least two dozen significant works between 1955 and 1970. In 1966, he migrated to the United States, where he was composer-in-residence of the Center of Creative and Performing Arts at the State University of New York (SUNY)-Buffalo (1966 - 1967), a faculty member of the University of Michigan (1967) and the University of Washington at Seattle (1968 - 1969), and was appointed an instructor at the University of California in San Diego in 1970. However, by that time, he had become ill and returned to Italy. He continued to compose important works, but at a much reduced rate. He passed away in 1996.