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Bruno Maderna Biography

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Bruno Maderna In-depth Biography

Italian composer and conductor Bruno Maderna} was one of the preeminent figures in contemporary European music in the mid-twentieth century. Born in Venice, Maderna} was a child prodigy who played hot violin in a local combo and made his conducting debut at La Scala} at age 12. By 1935 the course of Maderna}'s career was redirected by Italian fascists, who sent the talented child out to tour the capitals of Europe as a symbol of the superiority of the fascist order. Maderna} was rescued from this depressing situation by prominent Veronese fashion designer {%Irma Manfredi}, who took the now-adolescent professional musician under her wing and provided for his education.

By the age of 20 Bruno Maderna} had already earned his degree in composition from the Conservatory of Rome and returned to Venice to continue under composer Gian Francesco Malipiero}. Under Malipiero}, Maderna} began to master the complexities of serial} composition, but this was interrupted by his conscription into the fascist army. By 1943 Maderna} had deserted, and in 1945 he turned up fighting on the side of the partisans. At war's end, Malipiero} helped get Maderna} a teaching job at the Venice Conservatory. He supplemented his income by making transcriptions of Baroque} music for the publisher G. Ricordi}, composing pop} tunes and creating scores for radio drama and some rather undistinguished Italian films.

In 1948 Maderna} took a conducting class with legendary maestro Hermann Scherchen} and through him probably got to know Wolfgang Steinecke}, the founder of the Darmstadt Festival}. Maderna} had already met composer Luigi Nono} at Ricordi}, and would meet Luciano Berio} in Milan after leaving the Venice Conservatory in 1952. Steinecke} engaged Maderna} as a conductor at the Darmstadt Festival}, a post that made Maderna} a celebrity in postwar European avant-garde} and one that he would hold until the end of his days. With Berio}, Maderna} co-founded the Studio Fonologia Musicale of the RAI in 1955, a major electronic} music facility that hosted composers such as John Cage}, Francesco Donatoni}, Henri Pousseur}, Niccolò Castiglioni}, Luc Ferrari}, and others.

As the 1950s gave way to the 1960s, Bruno Maderna}'s work as a composer began to take a backseat to his activity as a conductor. He was named principal guest conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra}, appeared frequently with the Juilliard Ensemble}, and was musical director for two years at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood. He also spent a great deal of time in the recording studio and produced many fine albums of contemporary music, although in concert Maderna} was equally well known for conducting the symphonies} of Mahler} and other well-worn repertoire of the Viennese classics. Perhaps this had some effect on Maderna}'s personality as a composer, as well, for by the end of his life he'd turned his back on the serial} aesthetic espoused by the Darmstadt Festival} and his colleague Pierre Boulez}. This phase of Maderna}'s career is experienced in his opera} Satyricon} (1973), the orchestral piece Quadrivium} (1969), and in his never-finished series of pieces blanketed under the title Hyperion} (1964-1973), unofficially an opera} but officially a "lyric (drama) in the form of a spectacle."

When the end came for Maderna} at age 53, it did so swiftly -- he was diagnosed with lung cancer during the rehearsals for Satyricon}, which premiered in March 1973, and was dead by that November. His celebrity in America was so short-lived that by 2004 Maderna}'s name was largely forgotten there, but not so in Europe, where he is yet regarded as one of the giants of postwar modernism}. ~ Uncle Dave Lewis, All Music Guide

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