The outstanding Italian-born German conductor, composer, and teacher, Bruno Maderna, commenced musical studies at 4, and soon took violin lessons. He began touring as violinist and conductor when he was only 7, appearing under the name Brunetto in Italy and abroad, He studied at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan, with Bustini at the Rome Conservatory (diploma in composition, 1940), and with Malpiero at the Venice Conservatory. He also took conducting course with Guarnieri at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Sienna in 1941. He then served in the Italian Army during World War II, eventually joining the partisan forces against the Fascists. After the war he studied conducting with Hermann Scherchen in Darmstadt.
Bruno Maderna taught composition at the Venice Conservatory from 1947 to 1950. In 1950 he made his formal conducting debut in Munich. He subsequently became a great champion of the avant-garde. With Luciano Berio, he helped to form the Studio di Fonologia in Milan in 1954. Also with Berio, he was conductor of the RAI's Incontri Musicali from 1956 to 1960. He taught conducting and composition in various venues, including Darmstadt (from 1954), the Salzburg Mozarteum (1967-1970), the Rotterdam Conservatory (from 1967), and the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood (1971-1972). He was chief conductor of the RAI in Milan from 1971. In 1963 he became naturalised German citizen. Stricken with cancer, he continued to conduct concerts as long as it was physically possible.
Bruno Maderna was held in great esteem by composers of the international avant-garde, several of whom wrote special works for him.