Sandro Gorli studied composition with Franco Donatoni, while also studying at the Faculty of Architecture in Milan and taking a diploma in pianoforte. He carried out research at the Phonology studio at the RAI studios in Milan, and he attended the orchestra conducting courses held by Hans Swarowsky in Vienna. In 1977 he founded – and still conducts – the Divertimento Ensemble, which runs an intense concert programme with the objective of increasing the diffusion of contemporary music.
He was principal conductor of the Elision Ensemble, Melbourne, from 1990 to 1998. In the last few years alone, with these two ensembles he has recorded fourteen CDs. With the Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana, he led the first Italian performance of Philip Glass’ Low Symphony, and, conducting the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano G. Verdi, he has recently recorded two CDs entirely dedicated to Bruno Maderna.
His compositions, regularly performed on occasion of the most important Italian and international events, include: Me-Ti, for orchestra, a request by Bruno Maderna for the RAI Orchestra, Milan (1975 SIMC prize), Chimera la luce, for vocal sextet, pianoforte, choir and orchestra, whose premier performance was held at the Royan Festival in 1976, conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli, On a Delphic Reed, for oboe and 17 performers (1980 SIMC prize), Il bambino perduto, for orchestra, Quartetto, for strings, Le due Sorgenti, for chamber orchestra, Super flumina, for oboe, viola and orchestra, written for the 1987 Babilonia Festival (1989 City of Trieste prize), and Requiem, for unaccompanied mixed choir, written for La Chapelle Royale conducted by Philippe Herrewege (CD Harmonia Mundi). The organizations that have commissioned his scores include: RAI, Milan (1973), I Solisti Veneti (1975), the Gulbenkian Foundation (1976), the French Ministry of Culture (1979, 1983, 1984, 1989 and 1993), the Italian Foreign Ministry (1987), Radio France (1981 and 1988), the Orchestra Regionale Toscana (1990), the Ensemble Elision, Melbourne (1990 and 1994), the Geneva Festival (1991), the Atelier du Rhin (1993), the Japanese Theatre Winter festival (1997), Agon (1997), the Archdiocese of Milan (1999), and the Lisbon Symphonic Orchestra (2000), Milano Musica (2003), Ex Novo Ensemble (2009), Accademia Filarmonica Romana (2010).
In 1985 he won the Europa prize for musical theatre with the opera Solo, and his second opera, Le mal de lune, was staged in March 1994 in Colmar and Strasbourg.
He taught composition at the G.Verdi Conservatory in Milan.