Considered one of the founders of the post-war avant-garde, alongside Stockhausen, Boulez and Xenakis. He studied composition with Gian Francesco Malipiero, Bruno Maderna and Hermann Scherchen. He also graduated in law from the Padua University. At first recognized mainly in Germany for the works he presented at the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music, he rose to international fame in 1956 with the premiere in Cologne of Il canto sospeso for solo voices, choir and orchestra. Five years later the work was performed at the Warsaw Autumn Festival.
His political views (he joined the Italian Communist Party in 1953) had a deep impact on many of his works. He was a member of the Akademie der Künste of the German Democratic Republic. From 1960 he focused mainly on electro acoustic music at the Studio di Fonologia Musicale della RAI (founded by Berio and Maderna) in Milan. In 1980–85 he served as artistic director of the Experimental Studio of the Heinrich Strobel Foundation in Freiburg im Breisgau.
Luigi Nono made several visits to Poland. Two of his works have a Polish context: Diario polacco ’58 and Quando stanno morendo (Diario polacco II). The latter, commissioned by the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1981, was composed under the impact of martial law imposed in Poland in December 1981. It was dedicated to Nono’s “Polish friends and comrades, who – in exile, prisons, workplaces, and underground – persevere in resistance; who still hope against hope and who believe even if they are non-believers”.
S e l e c t e d w o r k s: Variazioni canoniche sulla serie dell’op. 41 di Arnold Schoenberg for orchestra (1950), Polifonica–Monodica–Ritmica for chamber orchestra (1951), Composizione per orchestra (1951), Epitaffio per Federico García Lorca, three studies: España en el corazón for soprano, baritone, mixed choir and instruments, Y su sangre ya viene cantando for flute and orchestra, Memento. Romance de la guardiacivil española for speaker, speakers’ choir, mixed choir and orchestra (1952–53), Due espressioni for orchestra (1953), Il mantello rosso, ballet after Lorca (1953), La victoire de Guernica for mixed choir and orchestra (1954), Liebeslied for mixed choir, harp and instrumental ensemble (1954), Canti per 13 for chamber orchestra (1955), Incontri for 24 instruments (1955), Il canto sospesofor solo voices, choir and orchestra (1955– 56), Varianti for violin, winds and strings (1957), La terra e la compagna for soprano, tenor, mixed choir and orchestra (1975), Cori di Didone for mixed choir and percussion (1958), Composizione per orchestra n. 2: Diario polacco ’58 (1958–59), Sarà dolce tacere for eight voices (1960), Ha venido, Canciones para Silvia for soprano and choir (1960), Omaggio a Emilio Vedova for tape (1960), Intolleranza 1960, stage action for voices, choir and orchestra (1960– 61), Suite da camera “da Intolleranza“ 1960 for soprano, choir and orchestra (1969), Canti di vita e d’amore: Sul Ponte di Hiroshimafor soprano, tenor and orchestra (1962), Canciones a Guiomar for soprano, female choir and instruments (1962–63), La fabbrica illuminata for mezzo-soprano and tape (1964), Die Ermittlung, music to Peter Weiss’s movie for tape (1965), Ricorda cosí ti hanno fatto in Auschwitz for tape (1966), A floresta é jovem e cheia de vida for three voices, soprano, clarinet, copper plates and tape (1966), Per Bastiana – Tai- Yang-Cheng for orchestra and tape (1967), Contrappunto dialettico alla mente for tape (1968), Musica–Mani festo n. 1: Un volto del mare – Non consumiamo Marx for voices and tape (1968–69), Musica per Manzú, soundtrack to the film Peace and War for tape (1969), Y entonces comprendió for six female voices, mixed choir, tape and live electronics (1969–70), Voci destroying muros for solo soprano, female choir and orchestra (1970), Ein Gespenst geht um die Weltfor soprano, mixed choir and orchestra to a text by C. Marx (1971), Como ŭna ola de fuerza y luz for soprano, orchestra and tape (1971–72), Siamo la gioventù del Vietnam for unisono choir (1973), Al gran sole carico d’amore, opera (1972–74), Für Paul Dessau for tape (1974), …sofferte onde serene… for piano and tape (1976), Con Luigi Dallapiccolafor six percussionists and live electronics (1979), Fragmente–Stille, an Diotima for string quartet (1979–80), Io, frammento dal Prometeofor two sopranos, chamber choir, bass flute, contrabass clarinet and live electronics (1980–81), ¿Dónde estás, hermano? for two sopranos, mezzo-soprano and alto (1982), Quando stanno morendo. Diario polacco n. 2 for two sopranos, mezzo-soprano, flute and live electronics (1982), Guai ai gelidi mostri for two voices, flute, clarinet, tuba, viola, cello, double bass and live electronics (1983), Omaggio a György Kurtág for winds and live electronics (1983), A Carlo Scarpa architetto, ai suoi infiniti possibili for orchestra (1984), Prometeo, tragedia dell’ascolto for four instrumental groups, two sopranos, two contraltos, tenor, mixed choir, two actors and live electronics (1984), A Pierre, dell’azzurro silenzio, inquietum for contrabass flute, contrabass clarinet and live electronics (1985), Risonanze erranti for mezzo-soprano, flute, tuba, percussion and live electronics (1986), Caminantes …Ayacucho for alto, flute, organ and orchestra (1986–87), Post-Prae-Ludium no. 2 No hay caminos, hay que caminar… Andrej Tarkovskij for seven instrumental groups (1987), Lalontananza nostalgica-futura. Madrigale a più “Caminantes“ con Gidon Kremer for violin and live electronics (1988),‘Hay que caminar’ sognando for two violins (1989).