Ildebrando Pizzetti


(20 September 1880 — 13 February 1968)

Ildebrando Pizzetti was born in Parma in 1880. His mother was Teresa Fava; his father was Odoardo Pizzetti, a piano teacher and choirmaster. He attended Lazzaro Spallanzani High School for Classical Studies in Reggio nell’Emila. In 1896 he began his studies of harmony and counterpoint at the Music Institute of Parma, where Giovanni Tebaldini, who helped spark young Pizzetti’s interest in ancient music, would become the school’s director shortly thereafter. Pizzetti graduated in 1901 with a major in composition, and began working as substitute maestro at Parma’s Teatro Regio. From the start, he showed enthusiasm for literature and theater, and he began to focus on theatrical dramas.  

In 1905 he took part in a competition sponsored by the magazine Tirso for the composition of music for D’Annunzio’s tragedy La nave. This marked the beginning of a fruitful period of collaboration between Pizzetti and D’Annunzio. There came the lyrical work for voice and piano entitled I pastori (1908), based on D’Annunzio’s collection of poems Alcyone, which is considered one of Pizzetti’s first major compositions. Fedra, with libretto by D’Annunzio, premiered in 1915 at La Scala in Milano. There were other operas inspired by literature as well, including Due liriche drammatiche napoletane, based on the dialect poetry of Salvatore Di Giacomo (1918), and Tre sonetti del Petrarca (1922). Pizzetti made his debut as librettist in 1922 with the drama Dèbora e Jaéle, and he would go on to write more librettos. He was also a respected composer of choral music, and developed a style that Mila defined as “neo-madrigalistic”.

In the early 1930s Pizzetti toured the United States, and later spent time in Buenos Aires. Pizzetti composed the soundtrack for Carmine Gallone’s colossal film Scipione l’africano (1937). He would go on to write other film soundtracks – which, by the way, was an activity he had begun in 1914, when he composed La sinfonia del fuoco for the film Cabiria.

Preludio ad un altro giorno (1951) was  Pizzetti’s last symphonic composition. His opera Assassinio nella cattedrale (1958) was based on the T.S. Eliot’s verse drama Murder in the Cathedral. Pizzetti concluded his long career as a composer with the choral piece Filiae Jerusalem, adjuro vos (1966). 

Pizzetti was also a prolific critic and author of articles, and wrote for several newspapers and music magazines.

He died in Rome on February 13, 1968.