Luigi Dallapiccola
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uigi Dallapiccola was born on February 3, 1904 in Pisino (now Pazin), then under Austro-Hungarian rule. He was the son of Pio Dallapiccola (1869-1951), professor of Latin and Greek and headmaster of the local Italian high school (gymnasium), and Domitilla Alberti (1869-1956), both of whom originated from Trento, Italy.

Pianist and composer

 born in Pazin 

Luigi Dallapiccola is considered to be one of the most important European composers of the 20th century, is the first to use atonality, and ranks as a pioneer of twelve-tone music and the "musica impegnata"

Pisino, Pazin, Mitterburg - Dallapiccola characterized his native town as a  "luogo d’incontro di tre culture e di scontro di tre culture",  a place where three cultures meet in a positive, mutually enriching sense, as well as with aspects of conflict.

With Italy‘s declaration of War in 1915, the high school in Pisino was closed down by the Austro-Hungarian authorities. In 1917, the Dallapiccola family, suspected of having irridentist sentiments, was declared "politically treacherous" and were interned at Graz, Austria. A performance there, The Flying Dutchman by Richard Wagner, aroused Luigi's wish to become a musician.

The Dallapiccola family returned to Pisino after the annexation of Istria and Trieste to Italy in 1918. Luigi had already had piano lessons in nearby Trieste during his late school years and discovered there the harmonic theory of Schönberg. In May 1922, Dallapiccola matriculated at the conservatory in Firenze, Italy, where he was granted a diploma in piano after finishing his studies in 1924. A performance of Pierrot Lunaire by Arnold Schönberg in Firenze 1924 finally led to his decision to become a composer. During his studies to become a composer he wrote his earliest compositions: Canti based on texts from Biagio Marin (1924-26); four canti Della mia Terra based on lyrics of popular Istrian folk music (1928) and Canzone del Quarnero, a musical version of a Gabriele D’Annunzio poem (1930). In 1930, he starts giving live concerts in various European countries as a pianist together with the violinist Sandro Materassi and becomes a pioneer for the New Music (among others for Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky and Jánaček). In 1931, he was granted a diploma for composition and became a lecturer at the Conservatorio di Musica L. Cherubini in Florence, where he stayed for 36 years.

He discovered the "genuine soul of Italian music" in Gian Francesco Malpiero's Torneo notturno which he heard 1932 for the first time and which influenced his compositional life.

The next years brought a series of compositions, e.g. Cori di Michelangelo (1933-35), and as a result of the political events including Mussolini's Abyssinia Campaign and the Spanish Civil War, the one-act opera Volo di Notte (1938) which picked out as a central theme the suffering of the individual existence and the transitory life standing in straight opposition to the Fascist propaganda at that time. The Fascist race-laws of Italy 1938 lead to the composition of the Canti di Prigionia (Preghiera di Maria Stuarda). With those compositions resulting from the political events Luigi Dallapiccola became the first composer of  an Italian "musica impegnata".

Luigi Dallapiccola in Firenze 1958

During the war years 1942-45 he composed the Liriche Greche based for the first time entirely on the twelve-tone music and the ballet Marsia in 1943. The same year brought the overthrow of Mussolini and Italy being occupied by the German Army and in consequence the arrests of the Italian Jewish population. Luigi Dallapiccola and his Jewish wife Laura Luzzatto fled Firenze and found shelter at a friend's villa in Fiesole/I, where he laid the foundations for his masterwork of the 40‘s Il Prigionero.

The 50‘s and 60‘s are characterized by travels and lectures stretching from Canada to California and Mexico-City to Buenos Aires. He participates at congresses, holds lectures and gives concerts in many European countries, particularly West Germany. In 1951 and 1952, Dallapiccola holds composition courses at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, where he finishes the Tartiniana I in honour to the violinist Giuseppe Tartini, who was also from Istria. In 1956 he completed Tartiniana II.

In 1955 he finished composing the Canti di Liberazione dedicated to Thomas Mann, with whom he was in frequent contact. With the Canti di Liberazione a trilogy is completed, which beginning are the Canti di Prigionia and the center part is the one-act opera Il Prigioniero. He held courses in composition and analysis at the Queens College in Flushing, New York (1956, 57, 59 and 67) and at the Instituto Tarcuato di Tella, Buenos Aires (1964).

Dallapiccola called his opera Ulisee (1960-67) "il risultato di tutta la mia vita". He resigned from this teaching at the conservatory in Firenze in 1967 to enable to him finish the opera and he moved to Berlin, the city divided by a wall and occupied by the four victorious powers. There in Berlin at the Deutsche Opera it is also played for the first time in 1968.

A busy time with lectures and teaching consequently brought him to many European countries, e.g. to the London Royal College of Music and the University of Leeds. Followed by compositions on textes by the Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jinénez (1970) and Paulinius of Aquilea (1971).

Dallapiccola died on February 19, 1975 in Firenze from edema of the lungs. His childhood experience of war, foreign rule and internment is well reflected in Dallapiccola's complete works and his important compositions radicating deeply in contemporary historical events. 


Awards and Honorariums:  

  • 1953 - Member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, Germany
  • 1958 - Member of the Berlin Academy of Arts, Germany
  • 1962 - Great Arts Award (Großer Kunstpreis) for music of the State of Nordrhein Westfalen, Germany
  • 1964 - Ludwig Spohr award of the city of  Braunschweig, Germany
  • 1967 - Moretti d’Oro music award of the Province of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
  • 1969 - Member of the Royal Academy of Music, London, UK
  • 1969 - Member of the Academy of Music and Visual Art, Graz, Austria
  • 1972 - Arthur Honegger award, Paris, France
  • 1973 - Doctor musicae honoris causae, University Durham, UK
  • 1973 - Doctor musicae honoris causae, University Edinburgh, UK
  • 1973 - Feltrinelli award for music of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei
  • 1973 - Great Cross of the highest Italian decoration awarded
  • 1975 - International Albert Schweitzer Arts award

Writings by Dallapiccola:

  • On Opera, Selected writings of Luigi Dallapiccola, Vol 1, Toccata Press (1987)
  • On Music and Musicians, Selected writings of Luigi Dallapiccola, Vol. 2, Toccata Press 
  • Parole e musica. Hrsg. v. F. Nicolodi, Mailand 1980, il Saggiatore.

Writings on Dallapiccola:

  • Kämper, Dietrich. Gefangenschaft und Freiheit. Leben und Werk des Komponisten Luigi Dallapiccola. Verlag Gitarre und Laute, Köln 1984. 210 Seiten.


  • Luigi Dallapiccola. Parole e musica. Hrsg. v. F. Nicolodi, Mailand 1980, il Saggiatore.
  • Photo gallery/list of works: Classical Music Dictionary - L. Dallapiccola -
  • Kämper, Dietrich. Gefangenschaft und Freiheit. Leben und Werk des Komponisten Luigi Dallapiccola. Verlag Gitarre und Laute, Köln 1984. 210 Seiten.
  • Translation from the German: Casimir (surname not given)
  • Photograph:  Dallapiccola a Firenze  dal libro di Kämper, Dietrich. Gefangenschaft und Freiheit. Leben und Werk des Komponisten Luigi Dallapiccola. (vedi sopra). Other photographs found on the internet.

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This page compliments of Marisa Ciceran, Michael Plass and Casimir (surname unknown)

Created: Saturday, April 9, 2001. Last Updated: Saturday, April 02, 2016
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