Wednesday, 23 January 2019


Cover of Leopold Mozart's Violinschule (1st ed.), depicting
the musician with his instrument. Leopold taught violin to
his famous son, Wolfgang Amadè from an early age,
effectively becoming the boy's first teacher. He would
famously take Wolfgang on a series of tours, and is rightly
considered to have been an indispensable figure & a dominating
force in the shaping of his sons' musical genius, and played
a major role in the formation the latter's stratospheric rise to
success, both as a performer and as a composer.
The “Mozarthaus Augsburg” - birthplace and home of Leopold Mozart, born in the Bavarian residence on Frauentorstraße on 14th November 1719 and father to more famous Wolfgang - is gearing up for an autumn re-opening with a fully redesigned, all new, permanent exhibition honoring the composer following a year's worth of renovations, and just in time for the Augsburg native's 300th birthday.

Speaking to the German press, culture adviser Thomas Weitzel invites fans of the Mozart family clan to pay pilgrimage to the newly renovated museum and exhibit this Fall, which promises to “focus on interactive approaches and music education” - providing a perfect learning environment suitable for “younger target groups.”

The cost of the overhaul to the Mozarthaus is estimated to be in the range of 300,000 euros, 264,000 of it to come from the state office for the non-state museums in Bavaria and the remaining sum to be paid by a group of third-party donors and sponsors who have pledged their financial support.

In addition, the city of Augsburg will play host to a celebratory year long anniversary program "JUBILEO! - 300 years of Leopold Mozart" which will feature theater and dance productions, choral and orchestral concerts, guided tours and exhibitions, culminating in May 2019 with the “German Mozart Festival.” The latter festival, which runs from the 11th of the month through to the 26th will play host to six exclusive concerts and feature as its main attraction the 10th Leopold Mozart International Violin Competition, which will be held in the German city 31 May through 8 June 2019. 

Mozarthaus Augsburg exterior, not to be confused
with Mozarthaus in Wien, located at
30, is the birthplace and former residence of father
to Wolfgang Amadè Mozart, Leopold Mozart.
Finally, a festive birthday concert on the occasion of Leopold's birth, on the 14th of November is sure to draw a crowd.

The celebration, however, doesn't end there: the Bavarian Chamber Philharmonic (Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie) has been commissioned by the city of Augsburg for a newly recorded CD of works by Leopold, which will hit the market following the jubilee.

As many violinists well know, Leopold's Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing (Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule) – the famously influential instructional textbook on 18th century performance practice for the violin - and the methods contained within, have been experiencing a welcome renaissance in present times thanks to the surge of historically-informed performances of music dating from the classical era. As such, Leopold continues to educate, and to inspire.

So much so, that a new biography on Mozart's first teacher is slated for release this fall by German musicologist Silke Leopold. The much anticipated write-up on Mozart's erudite father is being touted in the German press as the “first biography [on Leopold Mozart] to be backed by scientific evidence” and promises to shed new insight into “Leopold's European mindset” as well as his undeniable influence in the shaping of his son's stratospheric success, which the biographer dubs “The Miracle of Mozart.”

Unraveling Musical Myths will provide an update when Leopold's biography is expected to release.

Enjoy below recordings of 7 Symphonies of Leopold Mozart, performed by the Slovak Chamber Orchestra under maestro Bohdan Warchal (list in video):

External Links:


Paul Kildea's Chopin's Piano: A Journey
Through Romanticism (also published as
Chopin's Piano: In Search of the
Instrument That Transformed Music, 2018,
soon to come to Unraveling Musical Myths
Book Reviews, to see film adaptation.
Purchase Kildea's title now on Amazon
A forthcoming film adaptation of Australian conductor/author Paul Kildea's acclaimed 2018 novel (pub. Allen Lane) Chopin's Piano: A Journey through Romanticism has recently been announced.

The film, which begins production in 2020, produced by Donald Rodenfeld and Andreas Roald at Sovereign Films, will make use of two pianos which originally belonged to the famed Polish musician - a rare boon courtesy of the kind permission of Hatchlands Park, a Georgian National Trust property in Surrey, England which houses a collection created by Alec Cobbe, with roots dating back half a century.

Both novel and film bring into focus the composers' turbulent and highly creative time spent at an abandoned monastery in Mallorca with famed lover and French novelist George Sand in 1838, in which an ailing Chopin, surrounded by the “most beautiful” inspiration created his much beloved 24 preludes using a pianino – a small piano the composer had fashioned by a local, unknown amateur craftsman (Juan Bauza) upon finding a lack of instrumentation at the monastery. The film will also trace the subsequent history of the pianino long after Chopin's death – seized from the possession of Polish pianist Wanda Landowska at the height the second world war by Nazi officials in the latter's bold attempt to claim the composer as their own.

Unfortunately for posterity, Chopin's “Bauza” pianino has been lost to the hands of time, however Cobbe's collection, which includes the Pleyel Grand Chopin brought with him to England (and later used during a recital at the home of the Count d'Orsay and the Countess of Bessington at Kensington Gore), and a Broadwood which the maestro played at London's Guildhall (effectively the last of the pianist's concerts, held 16 November 1848 in honor of the “Funds of the Literary Association of the Friends of Poland”) and at various recitals. Both are expected to be featured in the upcoming film.

The role of Chopin – if already selected – has yet to be announced, whilst Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett is reportedly being eyed for the role of Sand.

Listen below to Daniil Trifonov performing Chopin's 24 Preludes during a recital at Berlin, held 8 May, 2013:


Tuesday, 22 January 2019


Igor Stravinsky loved and lived the Hollywood high life,
spending some 29 years of his life in Tinseltown. 20 of
those years were spent residing at the property presently
up for sale by Coldwell Banker. View the property via the
online listing at Redfin: 1260 N Wetherly Drive, Los Angeles
After being listed for 167 days (at the time of writing this post) on Redfin, Igor Stravinsky's West Hollywood home remains on the real estate market. The quaint 2,612 square foot estate (with 3 bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms), located at 1260 N Wetherly Drive, just above L.A.'s famed Sunset Strip was the longtime U.S. home of the famed Russian-born composer, who moved into the property in 1941 nearly a year after his arrival on the West coast, then fresh off the heels of his marriage to longtime mistress Vera de Bosset (former wife of famed Russian painter Sergey Sudeikin.)

Stravinsky, who would obtain American citizenship five years after his arrival on US soil, clearly bore affection for both Hollywood high life and home: in fact, the beloved 20th century icon – then revered as much in the United States as he was in Europe – would spend more years of his life in The Golden State than anywhere else in the world. Wetherly Drive, in particular, would prove more than agreeable: Igor would famously later purchase a neighboring home on the same street (#1218 N Wetherly Drive) after some 20 years spent at the primary residence – he would live on the adjacent property for over 9 more years before heading Northeast, where he would relocate to New York to live out his final two years, spent in the city's iconic Essex House, which had been recently acquired by Marriott Hotels in 1969.

Stravinsky boasted a remarkably productive output during his years spent at 1260 N Wetherly Drive (which include, but are not limited to the maestro's adoption – and adaptation – of Austrian émigré Arnold Schoenberg's 12-tone technique; the composition of 1951 English-language opera “The Rake's Progress” based on the engravings of William Hogarth; a collaboration with the illustrious choreographer George Balanchine on “Agon;” and his single-handed influence on reviving the early music of Carlo Gesualdo through his poignant arrangements of three of the renaissance master's madrigali for orchestra (which were later incorporated into Balanchine's ballet Momentum a Gesuado – not to mention a completion of the murderous Italian's unfinished Tres Sacre Cantiones Liber Secundus, which Igor realised in 1956; in addition to arrangements of the works of Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, and a bold excursion into ethereal liturgical works following the maestro's increasing presence and deep interest in the Russian Orthodox Church.)

Listen below to Stravinsky's arrangement of Gesualdo's "Sacrae Cantiones Liber Secundus." Stravinsky realised this work in 1957 (I) and 1959 (II & III), of which the original sextus and basses part books were lost. The video below is in a playlist format, containing three videos. Use arrow buttons or menu to navigate. I. Da pacem Domine, II. Assumpta est Maria, III. Illumina nos:

Stravinsky seemed also to fit right in as an esteemed member of the Hollywood elite - he hobnobbed with film industry bigwigs – famously signing over rights to Walt Disney for the American magnate to use music from Le Sacre du Printemps for the 1940 blockbuster animated hit “Fantasia” (albeit for a rather paltry sum of $6000 USD) – and proved a giant among men among Tinseltown's illustrious artistic intelligentsia. Those in his inner circle included everyone from Surrealist maestri to great thinkers, poets and authors – the likes of Aldous Huxley, Dylan Thomas and W.H. Auden. Just prior to moving into the property at N Wetherly Drive, Igor would try his hand at composing for film – albeit unsuccessfully, not for lack of talent, but rather for a refusal to relinquish sole control – with trial music for the former's screenplay adapted to the film “Jane Eyre,” starring Orson Welles (he ended up recycling previously written music for the project instead.)

Even the pop culture sphere opened it's doors for the world's most famed living composer: Stravinsky would make his Hollywood Bowl conducting debut the summer of his arrival in the U.S. in 1940 in which he led a rousing performance of the Firebird Suite.

These mentions account for merely a small portion of the maestro's accomplishments achieved in West Hollywood. Yet for all of Stravinsky's many connections in Los Angeles, and for all of his efforts at re-inventing himself both musically and spiritually, the only relic left standing – nay, the only relic to have ever stood which would serve to both remember and celebrate the beloved icon's time and influence in the city (save for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame) remain the former Stravinsky family homes on N Wetherly Drive – of which the presently offered residence up for sale is one. 

A true injustice of the highest sort!

The fact that the property is being quietly listed online with merely a passing reference to the composer is but another unfortunate reminder of a sadly seemingly absent memory on behalf of the inhabitants of the city.

Absent – yet not forgotten. In the nearly half a year since the quaint white stucco and wood home has been on the market, at least one active musician has paid pilgrimage to the composer by attending an open house and walking among its hallowed walls.

Could this small gesture be a promising sign of a much-delayed turnaround in WeHo to finally honor the internationally beloved icon who once called the city home, and whose contributions to Tinseltown's artistic realm have permeated the seams of time – the music composed there continuing to influence legions of subsequent composers both at home and around the globe?

Be it as a converted tourist attraction/education site (a museum would probably be asking too much), as a modern-day “salon,” or as home to a present or future musician or patron of the arts – or even simply as a residential slice of heaven for a very lucky fan – the possibilities for Stravinsky's house on the hill are infinite.

The present asking price for the property is $3.75 million USD. The listing may be viewed online on Redfin.

Related: watch below the acclaimed documentary, "Stravinsky in Hollywood," (dir. Marco Capalbo) which details the exploits and works composed whilst residing in the city (in three parts, L-R-BL, followed by the critically acclaimed autobiographical documentary "Once at a Border," featuring rare footage of Stravinsky and interviews many of his illustrious colleagues and family detailing more broad aspects of the composer's life. Directed by Tony Palmer):

Did You know?

This is not the first time Stravinsky's former home at 1260 N Wetherly Drive has hit the real estate market. Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen expressed interest in purchasing the property in 1996 only to pass given his fear of being haunted by the “ghost” of Igor, after he noticed indentations on the carpet where the maestro formerly rested his piano, and humorously, the hook where Stravinsky tethered his pet goat.

In other related news:
Giovanni Paisiello's former home in Taranto scores 500,000 euros to convert into museum honoring composer.

View that story at La Ringhiera (in Italian): "Regione, 500mila euro per il restauro di casa Paisiello a Taranto"

Vincenzo Bellini's Former villa overlooking Lake Como (the Villa Passalacqua) to open up this year as an idyllic sojourn for overnight guests.

View this story at Forbes online: "You Can Now Book A Night At One Of Europe's Most Expensive Homes."


Sunday, 20 January 2019


Giuseppe Verdi strolls down the Piazza della Scala, reading the news, 1900
As we approach the 118th anniversary of the death of 19th century Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, observed January 27th, the surviving descendants of the beloved icon residing on the grounds of his former home in Parma (the “Villa Verdi”) will find themselves feeling significantly less full – if not in spirit, in endowment – after failed attempts to reclaim hundreds of letters authored by the composer from the National Institute of Veridian Studies following it's digitization of the documents into the Parma State Archives left the family without the historic relics for the first time in over a century.

The presence of hitherto unknown correspondence in the hand of Verdi in the composer's former home, (located in the village of Sant'Agata near Piacenza, some 45 miles south of Milan) was first announced in the international press in the early Spring 2017. The documents, which date from 1850 to the year of Verdi's death in 1901, had formerly lay encased in a late 19th century trunk built by Marshall Field & Co. in Chicago for some 116 years at the location, which has remained until present day the Carrara-Verdi family home. Both trunk and its contents had been transferred at the start of the year (January 10) to the Parma State Archive to be digitized under the auspices of a pro tempore exchange.

But some three months later, and with no return of the memorabilia on the horizon, the good-faith exchange would turn sour, and with present villa owner and great-great grandson to the composer, Angiolo Carrara Verdi citing the transfer as little more than an unjustified “raid” by the Italian government.

Carrara-Verdi had inherited the villa - and all of the property within it - through the family line of Giuseppe's late cousin, Maria Filomena Verdi, who the composer and his opera-singer wife, Giuseppina Strepponi had raised as a daughter. Giuseppe, who died without any (direct) surviving children of his own (two children - a daughter and a son - had died in infancy) had left the vast bulk of his estate to Maria Filomena. Verdi's adopted kin would go on to marry one Alberto Carrara - the son of the composer's notary, Angiolo. The property, and all of Verdi's possessions contained within, have remained in the family ever since.

The "Villa Verdi" - Verdi's forever home at Sant'Agata.
Verdi moved into the residence in 1851 with
then-lover Giuseppina Strepponi. The couple would
wed eight years later and go on to raise Giuseppe's young
cousin Maria Filomena as their daughter. Verdi would
bequeath the villa to his adoptive daughter in his will,
dated 14 May, 1900. It has remained in the family ever
since, in conjunction with the Carrara family, descendants
of Filomena's husband (and son to Giuseppe's notary),
Alberto Carrara. Its present owner is Angiolo Carrara-
Verdi, the great-great grandson of Giuseppe.[1]
By April, a full blown press conference was organized in Rome at the Headquarters of the Central Institute for Audio and Audiovisual Assets led by the General Director for the Archives of Ministry of Cultural Heritage Gino Famiglietti, in which accusations of withholding “missing” letters were levied against the Carrara-Verdi family.

Furthermore, the heirs were branded as having been negligible in their conservation efforts of the letters by exposing them to unsuitable levels of environmental moisture, causing damage due to a damp atmosphere. Famiglietti informed the press that a six month “restoration” of “previously unusable” documents would be required for preservation's sake due to extensive damage before digitization of the material could even commence – a move that will ensure the full breadth of the correspondence will be made readily available for scholars.

Famiglietti emphasized that the delivery of the documents by the heirs had been conducted consensually with the Ministry from Angiolo Carrara Verdi, however it should be noted that had the composer's heirs not been compliant, there had been reason to believe a lawful, “coercive delivery” would have been enforced by the ministry in its efforts to “verify the preservation and consistency of archival assets, even if in possession of private individuals.”

The debacle resulted in a parliamentary dispute – between villa-adjacent Piacenza and Parma, with Piancenza Parliamentarian Tommaso Foti proposing a resolution (n. 5301 in the Regional Council of Emilia-Romagna) for the return of the documents following their digitization – which passed in September 2017. Foti argued the family villa was “subject to the constraints of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage which has enshrined the inseparability of the aforementioned Villa and the assets contained therein."

That reminder proved anything but helpful as inspectors of the Archival and Bibliographic Superintendency of Emilia-Romagna conducted their own survey of the villa grounds on 7 May 2018 only to substantiate claims of an inadequate conservation of the “Carteggi Verdiani” (Letters of Verdi) and ordered the mandatory transfer of the documents to Parma.

The Undersecretary of State for Cultural Assets and Activities, Gianluca Vacca seemed reluctant to criticize the family, citing the mandatory transfer and indefinite hold of the assets in Parma as an exercise in overabundant caution, whilst simultaneously reporting on damning inadequacies at Villa Verdi, including a persistent issue in regard to a lack of security on the grounds. Vacca noted that some documents had been stolen from the premises unbeknownst to the Carrera-Verdi family, and that the aging relic lacked a suitable fire-extinguishing system. That same month the General Directorate “gave immediate provisions for the purpose of coercive custody of the 66 archival units present at Villa Verdi.”

Vacca's statement went on to read:

“[the transfer of the letters to Parma] are not meant to persecute the family, but rather it is opportune to reiterate that this precautionary measure, fully justified by the conditions found during the inspection, [which] was put in place with the objective to guarantee the security and proper preservation of Verdi's documents, and not with a punitive intent towards the Carrara-Verdi heirs; without prejudice to the fact that, as mentioned above, they have on several occasions and in various forms disregarded the conservation, inventory and consultation obligations to which owners, owners or holders of cultural assets are kept ...

it should be added that the physical characteristics of the archival materials require specific microclimatic conditions for conservation purposes, and conditions [in] both the rooms of Villa Verdi, and the furnishings in which the documentation was kept could not in any way guarantee the desired [intent] to preserve Verdi's documentation in the rooms... the villa can not be led to the extreme consequence of jeopardizing the material integrity and the survival of the letters.”

What is perhaps most ironic is a directive rumored to be scrawled on one of the hitherto unpublished letters in the hand of Verdi: “Abbruciate tutte queste carte!” (Burn these letters!) How little did the composer know that the very same letters he once ordered destroyed after his demise (yet preserved against his wishes) would ignite a fire that would continue to burn well over a century after his death.

The present documents are likely to be housed at the Palatine Library of Parma, to be added to correspondence previously acquired by the Ministry through London auctioneer Sotheby's.

This marks the first time in the Villa's history as a museum that conditions related to conservation has been challenged.

More on this story at @ piacenzaonline (in Italian)

In happier news (for scholars, perhaps not as much for Carrara-Verdi) it has recently been announced that come this January 29, 2019, a much anticipated reveal of some never-before seen 5434 autograph pages of Verdi – which include “changes, corrections and uncertainties” written in the composers hand to his own scores, in addition to notes, each separated into envelopes housed in the large trunk – will be presented in the form of a yearbook by compiler Sandro Carrelletto of the Institute of Veridian Studies. The documents contained within are invaluable to scholars of the composer as they detail the intimacies of Verdi's composition process, and offer never-before heard versions of famous operas such as Falstaff, Ballo in Maschera; and include modification, notes and on-the-fly corrections from all of the composers' masterpieces, from La Traviata to Rigoletto, Aida to Don Carlos, and even Luisa Miller to his choral collective Quattro pezzi sacri.

The reveal comes after a three-year long petition by esteemed maestri (from the likes of Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta, Sir Simon Rattle, Riccardo Chailly, Daniele Gatti, Antonio Pappano, Salvatore Accardo and Plácido Domingo) to the Minister of Cultural Heritage and to the President of the Republic to make this indispensable memorabilia accessible.

More on this story @ Il Piacenza (in Italian)

Listen below to a stunning performance of Verdi's seldom heard Quattro pezzi sacri (Four Sacred Works), conducted and with an introduction by maestro Antonio Pappano. The Orchestra and Chorus of the Academy of Santa Cecilia, Rome perform at the 2013 Proms.

[1] Verdi's will included numerous charitable bequests, including to his former alma mater, the Monte di Pietà in Bussetto, which had famously presented the composer with a grant that had enabled him to study under Maestro Vincenzo Lavigna in Milan in 1832 through to 1836; the rights to his operas to Verdi's Retirement home for destitute musicians, the Casa di Riposo; farm lands to several aunts and uncles, and for the lion's share of his estate - the villa at Sant'Agata and all of his possessions contained within - went to Maria Filomena.

Verdi's instructions were explicit:

"I oblige my heir to maintain the garden and my house in Sant'Agata in their present state, asking her to maintain in their present state all the meadows that surround the garden."

The composer concluded his will with a bequest of 1000 lire, to be "distributed to the poor of the village of Sant'Agata."

Bonus video: 

Watch below an exclusive interview with Carrara-Verdi presented by Opera Online in which the famous composer's present heir discusses the villa and the family's inheritance/preservation of the property and Verdi's possessions, with a bonus tour of the estate. In French and Italian, with incomplete English subtitles. Jump to 1:08 for discussion on the villa.