Luigi Nono

Stefan Litwin
Four Compositions
La Lontananza ...

Electronic Music Foundation

Music by
Luigi Nono

Program note by
Richard Teitelbaum

Luigi Nono, who was born and lived his life in Venice, was certainly the most prominent Italian composer of the European avant garde in the late 20th century, in large part because he equated musical revolution with social revolution. I met Nono on a trip to Venice in early 1965 and studied with him during the winter of 1965-66. His politics at that time were unfailingly left wing with an ardent commitment to anti-colonialism, anti-capitalism, and political and social justice. 

He was, in fact, a member of the Central Committee of the Italian Communist Party, which probably accounted for an initial denial of a visa for him to visit the US to attend a performance of Intolleranza in 1960 at Sarah Caldwell's Boston opera company. Among many others who complained, I wrote to Robert Kennedy, my New York Senator, on Nono's behalf (I still have the signed letter I received back from him promising to look into the matter). Nono was ultimately granted the visa and he came to Boston. He also went on to Los Angeles. 

But probably, at least in large measure, because of his politics, his music has in general sadly been ignored in the US. Even his later works, in which politics is not so much to the fore, have been largely ignored. Yet the influence of these works on recognized European composers, such as Nono's student Helmut Lachenmann and Salvatore Sciarrino in particular, and Nono's recognition in Europe as among the 20th century's great composers, is notable.

I'm especially pleased at these upcoming concerts because they'll make a major statement of his early political music — such as La Fabbrica Illuminata (The Illuminated Factory), about victimized workers, and Ricorda cosa ti hanno fatto in Auschwitz (Remember what they did to you in Auschwitz) — and present his later music, such as La Lontananza ... which is more about space and sound than politics. And Alvise Vidolin, who worked closely with Nono, is coming to New York from Venice as artistic director. 

So my feeling is that if his music has been ignored too long in New York, at least these concerts will be definitive performances and set the bar for future events.

Richard Teitelbaum