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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).
After permanently settling in the little town of Asolo in 1923, 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.
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. 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.
When asked in the mid-1950s by the British encyclopedia The World of Music, Malipiero listed as his most important compositions the following pieces:
Pause del Silenzio for the orchestra, composed in 1917
Rispetti e Strambotti for string quartet, composed in 1920
L'Orfeide for the stage, composed between 1918 and 1922, and first performed in 1924
La Passione, a mystery play composed in 1935
his nine symphonies, composed between 1933 and 1955 (he would compose additional symphonies in the years after this list was made)
He regarded Impressioni dal vero, for orchestra, as his earliest work of lasting importance.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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
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".
^ abcdJohn 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.
^«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 
Sorce Keller, Marcello. "A Bent for Aphorisms: Some Remarks about Music and about His Own Music by Gian Francesco Malipiero", The Music Review, XXXIX(1978), no. 3-4, 231-239.
Lanza, Andrea (2008). "An Outline of Italian Instrumental Music in the 20th Century". Sonus. A Journal of Investigations into Global Musical Possibilities. 29/1: 1-21. ISSN0739-229X.