Gian Francesco Malipiero

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Gian Francesco Malipiero (Italian pronunciation:  [ˈdʒaɱ franˈtʃesko maliˈpjɛːro] ; 18 March 1882 – 1 August 1973) was an Italian composer, musicologist, music teacher and editor.



Early years

Born in Venice into an aristocratic family, the grandson of the opera composer Francesco Malipiero, Gian Francesco Malipiero was prevented by family troubles from pursuing his musical education in a consistent manner. His father separated from his mother in 1893 and took Gian Francesco to Trieste, Berlin and eventually to Vienna. The young Malipiero and his father broke up their relationship bitterly, and in 1899 Malipiero returned to his mother's home in Venice, where he entered the Venice Liceo Musicale(now the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello di Venezia). [1]

After stopping counterpoint lessons with the composer, organist and pedagogue Marco Enrico Bossi, Malipiero continued studying on his own by copying out music by such composers as Claudio Monteverdi and Girolamo Frescobaldi from the Biblioteca Marciana , in Venice, thereby beginning a lifelong commitment to Italian music of that period. [1] In 1904 he went to Bologna and sought out Bossi to continue his studies, at the Bologna Liceo Musicale (now the Conservatorio Giovanni Battista Martini). In 1906 he returned to the Venice Conservatory Benedetto Marcello of Music to continue his studies. After graduating, Malipiero became an assistant to the blind composer Antonio Smareglia. [2]

Musical career

In 1905 Malipiero returned to Venice, but from 1906 to 1909 was often in Berlin, [3] following Max Bruch classes. [4] Later, in 1913, Malipiero moved to Paris, where he became acquainted with compositions by Ravel, Debussy, Falla, Schoenberg, and Berg. Most importantly, he attended the première of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps , soon after meeting Alfredo Casella and Gabriele d'Annunzio. [2] [3] He described the experience as an awakening "from a long and dangerous lethargy". [1] [2] After that, he repudiated almost all the compositions he had written up to that time, with the exception of Impressioni dal vero (1910–11). [1] At that time he won four composition prizes at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, by entering five compositions under five different pseudonyms[ citation needed ].

In 1917, due to the Italian defeat at Caporetto, he was forced to flee from Venice and settled in Rome.

In 1923, he joined with Alfredo Casella and Gabriele D'Annunzio in creating the Corporazione delle Nuove Musiche. Malipiero was on good terms with Benito Mussolini until he set Pirandello's libretto La favola del figlio cambiato, earning the condemnation of the fascists. Malipiero dedicated his next opera, Giulio Cesare, to Mussolini, but this did not help him.

He was a professor of composition at the Parma Conservatory from 1921 to 1924. In 1932 he became professor of composition at the then Venice Liceo Musicale, which he directed from 1939 to 1952. Among others, he taught Luigi Nono and his own nephew Riccardo Malipiero. See: List of music students by teacher: K to M#Gian Francesco Malipiero .

After permanently settling in the little town of Asolo in 1923, [5] Malipiero began the editorial work for which he would become best known, a complete edition of all of Claudio Monteverdi's oeuvre, from 1926 to 1942, and after 1952, editing much of Vivaldi's concerti at the Istituto Italiano Antonio Vivaldi.


Malipiero had an ambivalent attitude towards the musical tradition dominated by Austro-German composers, and instead insisted on the rediscovery of pre-19th-century Italian music. [1]

His orchestral works include seventeen compositions he called symphonies, of which however only eleven are numbered. The first was composed in 1933, when Malipiero was already over fifty years old. Prior to that, Malipiero had written several important orchestral pieces but avoided the word "sinfonia" (symphony) almost completely. This was due to his rejection of the Austro-German symphonic tradition. [5] The only exceptions to that are the three compositions Sinfonia degli eroi (1905), Sinfonia del mare (1906) and Sinfonie del silenzio e della morte (1909–1910). In such early works, the label "symphony" should not, however, be interpreted as indicating works in the Beethovenian or Brahmsian symphonic style, but more as symphonic poems. [5]

When asked in the mid-1950s by the British encyclopedia The World of Music, Malipiero listed as his most important compositions the following pieces[ citation needed ]:

He regarded Impressioni dal vero, for orchestra, as his earliest work of lasting importance. [5]

Musical theory and style

Malipiero was strongly critical of sonata form and, in general, of standard thematic development in composition. He declared:

As a matter of fact I rejected the easy game of thematic development because I was fed up with it and it bored me to death. Once one finds a theme, turns it around, dismembers it and blows it up, it is not very difficult to assemble the first movement of a symphony (or a sonata) that will be amusing for amateurs and also satisfy the lack of sensitivity of the knowledgeable. [6]

Malipiero's musical language is characterized by an extreme formal freedom; he always renounced the academic discipline of variation, preferring the more anarchic expression of song, and he avoided falling into program music descriptivism. Until the first half of the 1950s, Malipiero remained tied to diatonism, maintaining a connection with the pre-19th-century Italian instrumental music and Gregorian chant, moving then slowly to increasingly eerie and tense territories that put him closer to total chromaticism. He did not abandon his previous style but he reinvented it. In his latest pages, it is possible to recognize suggestions from his pupils Luigi Nono and Bruno Maderna.[ citation needed ]

His compositions are based on free, non-thematic passages as much as in thematic composition, and seldom do movements end in the keys in which they started. [1]

When Malipiero approached the symphony, he did not do so in the so-called post-Beethovenian sense, and for this reason authors rather described his works as "sinfonias" (the Italian term), to emphasize Malipiero's fundamentally Italian, anti-Germanic approach. [1] He remarked:

The Italian symphony is a free kind of poem in several parts which follow one another capriciously, obeying only those mysterious laws that instinct recognizes [1]

As Ernest Ansermet once declared, "these symphonies are not thematic but 'motivic': that is to say Malipiero uses melodic motifs like everyone else [...] they generate other motifs, they reappear, but they do not carry the musical discourse – they are, rather, carried by it". [1]


The French conductor Antonio de Almeida led the Moscow Symphony Orchestra in recordings of the complete Malipiero symphonies for Naxos (Marco Polo, 1993–1994).

Recently, Malpiero's piano repertoire, including his complete concertos, has experienced a revival at the hands of noted Italian pianist Sandro Ivo Bartoli.

Selected works


  • I "La morte delle maschere",
  • II "Sette canzoni",
  • III "Orfeo"
  • I "La bottega da caffè",
  • II "Sior Todero Brontolon",
  • III "Le baruffe Chiozotte"

Orchestral music

Chamber music

Piano music

Vocal works

Film scores

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 John C.G. Watherhouse (1993). "Gian Francesco Malipiero (1883–1973)". In Symphonies nos.3 and 4 · Sinfonia del mare (pp. 3–5) [CD booklet]. Germany: Naxos.
  2. 1 2 3 "G.F.MALIPIERO – LIFE".
  3. 1 2 Laureto Rodoni, «Caro Lualdi…». I rapporti d'arte e d'amicizia tra G.F.Malipiero e A.Lualdi alla luce di alcune lettere inedite,
  4. "G.F.Malipiero". Universal Edition.
  5. 1 2 3 4 John C.G. Watherhouse (1993). "Gian Francesco Malipiero (1883–1973)". In Symphonies nos.1 and 2 · Sinfonie del silenzio e della morte (pp. 3–5) [CD booklet]. Germany: Naxos.
  6. «L'opera di Gian Francesco Malipiero» – essays from Italian and foreign scholars, introduced by Guido M. Gatti, Edizioni di Treviso, 11952, p. 340. – cited from M.Sorce Keller, A «bent for aphorisms»: Some remarks about music and about his own music by Gian Francesco Malipiero, The Music Review, 1978, vol. 39, n. 3–4 – available at