Like Boulez and Stockhausen, Luigi Nono is a key figure of the Darmstadt School. The overtly political nature of his work sets him apart.
Luigi Nono simultaneously studied Law in Padua, graduating in 1946, and music at the Venice Conservatoire, where he took classes from Malipiero. During this period he also met Bruno Maderna, who would later conduct his works. In 1946, he studied with Hermann Scherchen, an heir to Schoenberg. From 1950, he also regularly went to Darmstadt to attend classes with Edgar Varese, and met Karklheinz Stockhausen. His first work, Variations canoniques, based on a work by Schoenberg, was also premiered that year.
The debut in October 1956 of his vocal work Il canto sospeso, inspired by the writings of members of the Resistance who were sentenced to death was met by international acclaim and launched Nono's career as a preeminent composer, cementing his place in the post-Webernian avant-garde. This work also demonstrated Nono’s political commitment; he had been a member of the Italian Communist Party since 1952. The socio-political issues addressed by his work - the atomic bomb, anti-Semitism, consumerist society, Third World problems - directly reflected the news of the time.
In 1961, Intolleranza, his opera based on texts by Brecht and Sartre on fascist oppression, caused a scandal at the La Fenice Theatre. Nono however had a relatively peaceful life in Venice, dividing his time between teaching courses at Darlington, speaking at conferences in Latin America, and creating concerts in unconventional spaces, such as factory exits. The events of May 1968 led him to refuse to participate in the Venice Biennale, which he considered to be a festival of the "bourgeois world".
In his later works, Nono experimented with sound, writing for live and electronic music devices. He was fascinated by the intrinsic properties of sound.
Six Landmark Dates in the Life of Luigi Nono
1941 : Met Malipiero
1946 : Met Maderna
1948 : Attended classes by Scherchen in Zurich
1955 : Married Nuria Schoenberg, the daughter of Arnold Schoenberg
1960 : The premiere of Intolleranza, signaled an increased commitment to presenting political issues in his work
1968 : Refused to take part in the Venice Biennale.
Six Key Works by Luigi Nono
1950 : Variazioni canoniche sulla serie dell'op 41 di Arnold Schoenberg
1956 : Il canto sospeso
1960 : Intolleranza
1964 : La fabbrica illuminata
1980 : Fragmente-Stille, an Diotima
1984 :* Prometeo*