Italian composer. Initially a neoclassicist, he adopted a lyrical 12-tone style after 1945. His works include the operas Il prigioniero/The Prisoner (1944–48) and Ulisse/Ulysses (1960–68), as well as many vocal and instrumental compositions.
Dallapiccola was born in Pisino, Istria. For political reasons his family was moved to Graz, Austria, in 1917, where his decisive first contacts with music (especially opera) were made. The family returned to Italy in 1921, where Dallapiccola studied at the Florence Conservatory and in 1931 became professor. In 1956 he was appointed professor at Queen's College, New York. His mature music, while using serial techniques, modified them to allow for a more lyrical style than is usual, not avoiding tonal references, thematic structures, and harmonic progressions.
He first attracted international attention at pre-1939 festivals of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM). His Canti di prigionia/Songs of Captivity were prompted by the fascist racial laws of 1938, and represent the expression in music of an imprisonment that was as much mental as physical. This ‘protest music’, with its theme of mental persecution, was continued in his later opera Il prigioniero (after La Torture par l'esperance by Villiers de l'Isle Adam) and the choral Canti di liberazione/Songs of Liberty (1951–55). His early opera Volo di notte (1937–39; after Antoine de Saint-Exupéry) makes tentative use of serial techniques which were brought to fruition in his highly personal and poetic manner in the group of Liriche greche/Greek Lyrics (1942–45). In the 1950s Dallapiccola was much influenced by Anton Webern, and his own personal style gave way to a less poetic and more cerebral expression. Nevertheless his supremacy as a vocal writer was maintained on the large oratorio Job (1950) and Requiescant (1957–58), and small works such as Goethe Lieder (1953), Cinque canti (1956), Preghiere (1962), and Parole di San Paolo (1964). His large opera Ulysses, the fruit of ten years' work, reveals a return to his earlier poetic style. Dallapiccola was not successful with instrumentalism in spite of his excellence as an orchestrator. He had great influence in post-war Italy, and played a dominant part in the cultural renaissance of that country.
WorksOperaVolo di notte (1937–39), Il prigioniero (1944–48), Ulisse (1960–68).
Ballet ballet Marsia (1942–43).
Voices and orchestralTre laudi (1936–37) for solo voice and orchestra, Canti di prigionia (1941), Canti di liberazione (1951–55), Concerto per la notte di natale for soprano and orchestra (1957).
OrchestralPiccolo concerto for piano and orchestra (1941), Tartiniana, divertimento for violin and chamber orchestra (1951), Piccola musica notturna (1954; for chamber ensemble 1961).
Other music for three pianos; Liriche anacreontiche Roncevals, cycle of Greek and other songs; Ciaccona, intermezzo e adagio for solo cello (1945).
His interest in composition was stimulated by his acquaintance with Alban Berg and he evolved a personal use of serialism ....