Born in Verona, 1927.
He began his musical education at the musical secondary school of his native city under Piero Bottagisio, and later studied composition with Ettore Desderi at the “G. Verdi” Conservatory of Milan and Lino Liviabella at the “G. B. Martini” Conservatory in Bologna.
In 1949 Donatoni completed his degree in composition and band orchestration. In 1950 he took a second degree, this time in choral music and, in 1951, a final degree in composition. In 1953 he graduated from Ildebrando Pizzetti’s advanced composition course at the Accademia Nazionale of S. Cecilia in Rome. He attended the Darmstadt Ferienkurse in 1954, 1956, 1958 and 1961.
Donatoni has been awarded the following prizes: Lièges, 1951 (Quartetto), Radio Luxembourg, 1951 ( Concertino for strings, brass and solo timpani) and 1953 ( Sinfonia for strings), ISCM, 1961 (“Puppenspiel” for orchestra), Marzotto, 1966 ( “Puppenspiel No. 2” for flute, piccolo and orchestra), Koussevitzky, 1968 (“Orts” for 14 instruments), Psacaropoulo, 1979 (“Spiri” for 10 instruments). Donatoni’s works are published by Zanibon of Padua, Schott of London, Boosey & Hawkes of London, Suvini Zerboni of Milan (from 1958 to 1977) and Ricordi of Milan (since 1977). From 1953 to 1978, Donatoni taught at the conservatories of Bologna, Turin and Milan. At present he holds the chair in advanced composition at the Accademia Nazionale of S. Cecilia in Rome. Since 1970 he has also taught advanced composition at the Chigi Academy in Siena. From 1971 to 1985 he held a teaching appointment at the DAMS course under the aegis of the Department of Literature at the University of Bologna. In 1972 Donatoni was invited by the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst to reside in Berlin for a year, and in 1979 he was invited to give a seminar on his music at the University of California at Berkeley. Donatoni has also held seminars in Switzerland, France, Spain, Holland and Israel. Donatoni now teaches at the Civica Scuola in Milan, at the Perosi Academy in Biella and at the Forlanini Academy in Brescia. He is the author of “Questo”, published by Adelphi (Milan, 1970), “Antecedente X” (id. 1980), “Il sigaro di Armando” published by Spirali Edizioni (Milan, 1982) and “In-oltre” published by Edizioni L’Obliquo (Brescia, 1988). The volume of “Settembre Musica” edited by Enzo Restagno (Turin, EDT 1990) was devoted to him. He is a member of the Accademia Nazionale of S. Cecilia and the Accademia Filarmonica Romana. In 1985 he was given the title “Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by the French Minister of Culture.
In 1990 the Settembre Musica Festival of Turin devoted a series of concerts to him. In September 1991 he was invited to Australia by the Elision Ensemble to hold seminars at the Italian Cultural Institute in Melbourne. On that occasion the first performance of “Refrain II” took place. From June to October 1992 Milano Musica organised, as a tribute to him, an important programme of his works; over eight concerts a number of his most significant compositions were performed, including the first performance of “Feria II” for organ and Bach’s “Art of Fugue” as transcribed by Donatoni for orchestra. In the decade 90-99 works which must be mentioned are “Sweet Basil” (1993) for trombone and Big Band, commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, “Portal” (1995) for bass clarinet, B flat clarinet, small clarinet and orchestra, commissioned by Radio France, “In Cauda II” (1996), commissioned by the Süddeutscher Rundfunk Stuttgart, and “In Cauda III” (1996). In 1996 he also completed the cycle, begun in 1983, of “Françoise Variationen” for piano. In September 1998 his short comic operina, “Alfred Alfred”, was performed at the Festival Musica in Strasbourg. In 1999 there were performances of “Fire” (In Cauda IV) and, commissioned by the Salzburg Festival, “Poll” for 13 performers. Franco Donatoni died in Milan on 17th August 2000.