Feature Preview – Luigi Nono: Fragments of Venice

Written by: Richard Whitehouse

Southbank Centre and Royal Academy of Music to host the first major Nono retrospective in the UK

Composer Luigi Nono in Venice's Piazza San Marco. Southbank Centre's major festival about his work begins in October 2007 Although widely regarded as one of the leading composers of the post-war era, Luigi Nono (1924-90) has had relatively little exposure in this country. A situation set to change with a major retrospective of his music this October, given by the Southbank Centre and the Royal Academy of Music, and featuring some of his most representative works in performances by musicians with whom he collaborated.

The range of Nono’s compositions to be heard takes in the forty-year extent of his output – from Variazioni canoniche of 1950 to Hay que caminar’ soñando of 1989. All the main phases are covered: from the emotionally-charged vocal and instrumental pieces of the 1950s, through the forcefully polemical but never narrowly political music of the 1960s and early 1970s, to the groundbreaking work with live electronics and extended performance techniques that informed his last years of creativity.

Nono’s music will be heard in the context of the contemporaries who influenced, and were influenced by, his thinking – Pierre Boulez, György Kurtág and Bruno Maderna – as well those predecessors who shaped his rigorous and questing approach to composition – Schoenberg, Berg, Webern and Varèse.

In addition, concerts at Westminster Cathedral and St John’s, Smith Square focus on music from the Renaissance and Baroque eras whose radical approach to the qualities of space and acoustic blazed a trail Nono himself would draw upon three centuries later. Music by Cavalli, Gabrieli and Vivaldi can be heard, while Monteverdi’s “Vespers” underlines the significance of Venice to its most famous adopted composer from an earlier age as well as to its most significant native composer of the past century.

Among the artists taking part are Maurizio Pollini, Diego Masson, the Arditti String Quartet, the London Sinfonietta and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The composer’s widow Nuria Schoenberg-Nono will be in attendance, as will his friend and collaborator (and the current Mayor of Venice) Massimo Cacciari and his long-term performance co-ordinator André Richard. A number of pre-concert talks and discussions feature during the month, while an on-site installation will be active from spring 2008 in the run-up to the long-awaited UK premiere next May of Nono’s crowning achievement “Prometeo”.

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