Luigi Dallapiccola

The theme of human liberty and subjection is a recurrent feature of both Luigi Dallapiccola's life and his music. Born in 1904 in Pisino, Istria, an ethnically Italian region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Dallapiccola was just ten years old when he and his family were interned in Graz after the Austrian authorities began to suspect his father of Italian nationalist leanings – an early and formative experience of the fate of political and racial minoritities living under an authoritarian regime. Nevertheless, although the forced removal disrupted the young Dallapiccola's musical education, it was in Graz that he heard the performance of Wagner's Flying Dutchman which made him decide to become a composer, and in 1923 he entered the Florence Conservatory, an institute with which he would maintain a lifelong connection.

Dallapiccola's early works show him grappling with a range of influences: Debussy especially, along with earlier Italian composers such as Monteverdi and Gesualdo, and – after hearing a performance of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire in Florence in 1924 – the music of the Second Viennese School. A decade of study and consolidation followed. In 1934 Dallapiccola was appointed professor of piano at the Florence Conservatory (a post he held until his retirement in 1967), while his own compositions continued to absorb lessons learned from Busoni, Schoenberg and, especially, Berg, as he began to incorporate the 12-note system into his own music. Meanwhile, the growing shadow of Fascism reawakened his concern with the plight of ordinary human beings living under despotism. In 1938 Mussolini's adoption of Hitler's racial policies (with the consequent threat to Dallapiccola's own wife, who was Jewish) provided the impetus for the Canti di prigionia ("Songs of Imprisonment"), the first of his triptych of works concerned with imprisonment and freedom. As Dallapiccola noted in his diary: "in a totalitarian regime the individual is powerless. Only by means of music would I be able to express my anger."

Dallapiccola's public opposition to Mussolini made his position increasingly untenable until, in 1942, he was forced first out of Florence and then into hiding in the countryside. For all his personal difficulties, however, the years immediately before and during World War II were musically fecund ones, as Dallapiccola established the lyrical version of 12-note music – with a distinctly Italian turn of phrase – that was to serve him for the remainder of his career, and which he first expounded in a sequence of vocal works, most notably the Liriche greche ("Greek Lyrics"), written during the 1940s. As a well-known opponent of Fascism, Dallapiccola emerged from the war with his personal reputation enhanced, while the premiere in 1950 of his most famous work, the opera Il prigioniero ("The Prisoner"), established his international reputation as the leading Italian composer of his generation. Yet as his public fame increased, so his musical style became increasingly abstract and personal, eschewing big public statements in favour of a lyrical understatement, as exemplified by the third of his "prisoner" pieces, the Canti di liberazione ("Songs of Freedom") of 1955.

Article originally published in The Rough Guide to Classical Music

Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
1933 Due cori di Michelangelo Buonarotti il giovane 4.00 stars CD
Dallapiccola Comments:
Nicola jansen - Soprano
Lorraine Gwynne - Mezzo Soprano

New London Chamber Choir cond. James Wood

1935 Inni – musica per tre pianoforti 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

The piano parts are overdubbed
Roberto Prosseda - Piano

1938-1941 Canti di prigiona 4.00 stars CD
Dallapiccola Comments:
- Preghiera di Maria Stuarda
- Invacazione di Boezio
- Congedo di Girolamo Savonarola

Ensemble InterContemporain cond. Hans Zender

1942 Cinque frammenti di Saffo 4.00 stars CD
Dallapiccola Comments:

Julia Moffat - Soprano
Ensemble InterContemporain cond. Hans Zender

1943 Sonatina canonica su capricci di Paganini 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

Duccio Ceccanti - Violin
Roberto Prosseda - Piano

1943 Sex Carmina Alcaei 4.00 stars LP
Dallapiccola Comments:
Heather Harper - Soprano
English Chamber Orchestra cond. Frederik Prausnitz
1943 Sex Carmina Alcaei 4.00 stars CD
Dallapiccola Comments:

Julia Moffat - Soprano
Ensemble InterContemporain cond. Hans Zender

1944-1945 Due liriche di Anacreonte 4.00 stars CD
Dallapiccola Comments:

Julia Moffat - Soprano
Ensemble InterContemporain cond. Hans Zender

1946-1947 Due studi, for violin and piano 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

Duccio Ceccanti - Violin
Roberto Prosseda - Piano

1946-1947 Due Pezzi per Orchestra 4.00 stars CD
Dallapiccola Comments:

Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI cond. Pascal Rophé

1949 Tre episodi dal balletto Marsia 4.00 stars cd
Comments:

Duccio Ceccanti - Violin
Roberto Prosseda - Piano

1951-1952 Quaderno musicale di Annalibera 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

Roberto Prosseda - Piano

1954 Piccola musica notturna 4.00 stars LP
Dallapiccola Comments:
New Philharmonia Orchestra cond. Frederik Prausnitz
1954 Variazone per Orchestra 4.00 stars CD
Dallapiccola Comments:

Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI cond. Pascal Rophé

1956 Tartiniana seconda, for violin and piano 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

Duccio Ceccanti - Violin
Roberto Prosseda - Piano

1959-1960 Dialogi per Violoncello e Orchstra 4.00 stars CD
Dallapiccola Comments:

Jean Guihen Queyras - Cello
Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI cond. Pascal Rophé

1962 Preghiere 4.00 stars LP
Dallapiccola Comments:
Barry McDaniel - Baritone
New Philharmonia Orchestra cond. Frederik Prausnitz
1962-1963 Three Questions with Two Answers 4.00 stars CD
Dallapiccola Comments:

Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI cond. Pascal Rophé

1970-1971 Tempus destruendi - tempus aedificandi 4.00 stars CD
Dallapiccola Comments:
Nicola Jansen - Soprano
Lorraine Gwynne - Mezzo Soprano

New London Chamber Choir cond. James Wood