Toscanini's Secret Collection on Display

The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 10, 2007; 6:33 PM

New YORK -- He was the maestro di maestri of music, but few people knew of Arturo Toscanini's passion for collecting art.

Now, as the 50th anniversary of Toscanini's death approaches, part of his private collection is going on display for the first time.

Some 60 works were previewed Wednesday for the media at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall, where the anniversary of Toscanini's death will be commemorated on Jan. 16 with a joint concert by the New York Philharmonic and Italy's Symphonica Toscanini training orchestra.

The exhibition, called "Maestro's Secret Music," includes Italian and American works from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

"Italy had just been unified a very short time," said the maestro's grandson Walfredo Toscanini, 77. "I think like Verdi's music had preceded unification of Italy and had helped to unify Italy, all this outpouring of art and literature (that) came after Italy was unified was a continuation of extolling the Italian landscape, the Italian arts, the Italian singing, the Italian music."

Most of the works are still owned by the Toscanini family.

"The paintings meant so much to him," Walfredo Toscanini said. "He would get up in the middle of the night and go and look at them, rearrange them and really take great care of them."

Among the works: an oil painting of New York's Flatiron building by Alfred East; "Angelica," a nude watercolor by Tranquillo Cremona; a sculpture of Enrico Caruso depicted as a laughing Buddha and sculpted by the great tenor himself; and scenes of Lake Maggiore.

"He really loved the Italian landscape," particularly the lake, said Walfredo Toscanini, an architect who lives in New Rochelle and helped design Lincoln Center. "He rented a villa on an island in the lake for many years and ... when he was here in the United States he could look up on the walls and be reminded of that wonderful view of that lake in shimmering light."

Born on March 25, 1867, in the Italian city Parma, Toscanini became regarded as the icon of the podium through his mastery of music and photographic memory. He was music director of Milan's Teatro alla Scala and conducted the world premieres of such operas as Puccini's "La Boheme" and "Turandot" and Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci."

He moved to the United States in 1908 to lead the Metropolitan Opera and served as music director of the New York Philharmonic from 1928 to 1936 before leading the fabled NBC Symphony. He died in New York in 1957 at age 89.

The art works will be on display to Philharmonic audiences at Avery Fisher through March 31 and to the public by appointment on Thursday afternoons. They will travel to Italy for exhibitions in Parma and Livorno.


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