Luigi Nono (1924-1990) is ranked among the most remarkable composers of the 20th century in all phases of his career. He managed to give his serial compositional method an exceptional strength of expression; his compositional message was influenced by his fight against oppression. He participated in the anti-fascist resistance movement during World War II and later worked as a lawyer at the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Italy.
The majority of his compositions have political elements. For example, the cantata Il canto sospeso is based on the texts of letters from guerilla fighters sentenced to death, the opera Intoleranza deals with social injustice, and the opera Al gran sole carico d’amore focuses on the Commune of Paris. La fabbrica illuminata is about the awful working conditions in factories.
However, Nono never associated his work with “socialist realism;” instead, he connected political themes with avant-garde music and highly poetic forms. His compositions were always characterized by a great sonic imagination; he fought against the schematic character of music for his whole life. He wanted “different thoughts, different sounds, [and] different ideas.”
Nono’s later work (after 1980) appears to rebel against the tense dramatic nature of earlier compositions. New, meditative elements appear, and the music “purges itself” in a special way: it gains a utopian, visionary character, focusing more on the eloquence of the sound itself.