Ciurlionis National Art Museum in Kaunas

Very few composer museums are purpose-built. One such is the Ciurlionis National Art Museum in Kaunas, designed to accommodate his paintings rather than any musical relics; another is the museum to Revuts’ky, at the Ukrainian village of Irzhavets’. Sometimes new buildings have been put up alongside old ones where the needs of a museum have outgrown the possibilities within the existing house, as at the Grieg museum at Troldhaugen, the Tchaikovsky one at Klin or the Elgar cottage outside Worcester. A wing of the city concert hall in Odense was adapted to form the Nielsen museum.

Several museums are in houses that the composers themselves planned or designed. Ole Bull’s timber extravaganza at Lys0en, already mentioned, is perhaps the most arresting of these; it is in fact foreshadowed by his earlier

Ciurlionis National Art Museum in Kaunas Photo Gallery



Rights were not granted to include these illustrations in electronic media. Please refer to print publication house at Valestrand, just north of Bergen, and still in the family. Then there are the villas, Sant’Agata and Wahnfried, of Verdi and Wagner, and Puccini’s Italian Gothic revival villa at Torre del Lago. Scandinavians have favoured a more rustic style, as witnessed by Grieg’s Troldhaugen, Peterson-Berger’s Sommarhagen on Froson, and indeed Sibelius’s Ainola in the woods of Jarvenpaa; the more recent granite and pine mansion built by Harald Ssverud represents a reinterpretation of that tradition. Stravinsky himself made the initial designs for his house, now his museum, at Ustyluh, on the Ukrainian-Polish border, influenced by Swiss chalet design, but after wartime depredations and rebuilding it now has a more Stalinist appearance. The design of d’Indy’s tall, neo-Gothic chateau in the Ardeche seems very much of a piece with his music. Two composers built Mediterranean villas, Casals a beachside one at Sant Salvador, Walton his island refuge on Ischia. As to interiors, the Ysaye studio in Liege designed for him by Serrurier-Bovy is a fine example of Art Nouveau, as too is the Nottara house in Bucharest; another remarkable interior, though highly eclectic with its Greek Revival, Art Deco, japonaiserie and much else, is Ravel’s house at Montfort-l’Amaury.

Numerous museums have been set up within historic buildings, generally but not always buildings with some connection with the composer. Two women composers, Pejacevic and Zuylen, are commemorated in the castles in

Nassice and Utrecht that once belonged to their families. But not many composers came from the castle-owning classes. The Benda brothers and Smetana are commemorated at one where they worked, at Benatky nad Jizerou, as is Bach at Kothen (also in one at Ohrdruf, close to where he briefly lived). There is a memorial room to Haydn at the Esterhazy family Versailles in Hungary, Eszterhaza, near Fertod, and there are Beethoven commemorations at the castles of his patrons – the Lichnowsky family at what is now Hradec nad Moravid in North Moravia, and the Brunsvik family at what is now Dolna Krupa in Slovakia and Martonvasar near Budapest (the latter more country house than castle). Schubert is remembered at an Esterhazy estate at Zseliezovce, now in Slovakia, where he gave music lessons, as well as at the castle at Atzenbrugg, west of Vienna, where he attended house parties. Brahms is commemorated along with Reger at the castle that was once the seat of the Saxe-Meiningen court. As a young man Chopin occasionally played in country houses not far from Warsaw (Antonin, Sanniki and Szafarnia), and a visit from the greatest Polish composer is something that warrants continuing celebration, in festivals and summer courses as well as memorial rooms. One of the Verdi museums at Busseto is in a palace that once belonged to the local noble family, the Pallavicino, and is now owned by the municipality, and one belonged to Verdi’s first father-in-law and patron Antonio Barezzi, whom to some extent it commemorates. One of the several Tchaikovsky museums spread across Russia and Ukraine is in the country house that belonged to his patron Nadezhda von Meck (the main part of which is an agricultural college, as too is Eszterhaza). Paderewski’s country house at K^^na Dolna, near Tarnow in southern Poland, is part museum, part hotel, part site of piano competitions and like events. In Croatia Prejac and in Poland Kurpinski are remembered at castles, not because of any historical connection with them but simply through the social and political circumstances in those countries that led to the use of grand houses for the honouring of local worthies.

Some museums are accommodated in ecclesiastical buildings. Besides the memorial rooms to Bruckner at St Florian, there are rooms dedicated to Michael Haydn at St Peter’s Abbey in Salzburg, for which he composed and where he is buried, and rooms for the Wranitzky brothers at the Premonstratensian monastery in Nova Rise, South Moravia, where they had their schooling. Chopin’s chilly winter with George Sand at Valldemossa, in Majorca, is commemorated in the monastery where they stayed. There is a necessarily rather small memorial to Martinu on the elevated site of his birth, up 200 stairs, at the top of the church tower in Policska, Eastern Bohemia. Until recently there was a museum to Peter Singer, a leading figure in Salzburg musical life in the 19th century and inventor of the Pansymphonikon, in the

Franciscan monastery there, but little now remains. Some museums reach church premises almost by accident. There is no discernible logic to the assignment of an outbuilding of the basilica of St Nicolas in Brasov to a commemoration of Ciortea, whose interests lay in instrumental and Transylvanian folk music. The birthplace of Tomassek, in Skutecs in Eastern Bohemia, happens to have been taken over by a Czech evangelical sect which happily could spare a room for the composer. Through the bequest by his mistress of Mascagni materials to the parish of Bagnara di Romagna, the museum to him is housed in church property. In England there is a modest celebration in Down Ampney church of Vaughan Williams, a non-believer, whose father had been vicar there when he was born. The commemoration of Parry is in the remains of a medieval priory.

Other historic buildings with composer memorials include a former customs house on a Stockholm island, where the poet-composer Bellman is commemorated. At a neo-Renaissance villa at the foot of the Wartburg, outside Eisenach, there is, aptly, a museum to Wagner. In King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s castle of Neuschwanstein, huge murals depict scenes from his music dramas. One of the oddest sitings of a museum is in a building adjoining the Hellerhof monastery in Paudorf, Lower Austria, where Kienzl, whose opera Der Evangelimann has as its climax the destruction of the Hellerhof, is celebrated.

Anyone who visits 300 or so composer museums is bound to notice recurring patterns among them and to note ways in which they fall into groups. Reference has already been made to the large number of museums made out of former schoolrooms and reflecting the relative likelihood of the son of a village schoolmaster, who generally also served as village organist, becoming a composer, especially in central and eastern Europe. Familiar examples are Schubert and Bruckner, both of whose birthplaces are now museums; others include four Czechs (Dussek, Janacek, Jindrich, Ryba), two Latvians (D-rz^s, Melngailis) and two more from Austro-Hungary (Pleyel, Erkel). There are further examples from Germany (Silcher) and Belgium (Tinel). Several of the original school buildings are now museums. Schools are also sometimes used for memorial displays for want of any better place: as in Novi Becej, Serbia, where a substantial Marinkovic collection can be seen in a headmaster’s study in a school in the street where he was born, or in Kirovohrad, in Ukraine, where a collection of the theatre composer Meytus is exhibited, or in Azern’i, in Belarus, where Moniuszko is commemorated close to the site of his birth.

The transplanted studies in music colleges, conservatories and universities have been noted above. There are also other types of museum in such institutions: to Rossini in Pesaro, where there is a dedicated ‘little temple’ or tempietto, filled with his manuscripts; to Donizetti in the conservatory in Bergamo; to Piccinni in Bari (where the university music department is directly above the humble basso where he was born); to Schumann in Leipzig (where first-floor rooms, probably the site of his original flat, commemorate him and Clara within a primary music school); to Franz Schmidt in Perchtoldsdorf, just south of Vienna (two memorial rooms within the eponymous municipal music school); to Dittersdorf in the North Moravian town of Javormk (where his original house is a junior music school); to Janacek in Brno (in the house built for him in the conservatory grounds); to Matecic Ronjgov, just outside Rijeka (in the institution he established in his native village, mainly for the study of Istrian folk music); and to Liszt in Budapest (where he was assigned a flat in the then music school, with doors leading directly into the concert room). This last, like the grace-and-favour Vltols estate, is one of the few bestowed on a composer: other examples are the house in Tibble, near Leksand in central Sweden, bought for Alfven by his admirers to mark his 70th birthday; and Haus Wahnfried in Bayreuth, presented to Wagner by Ludwig II. Liszt in reality had two such gifts, for his flat at the Hofgartnerei in Weimar was set aside by the Grand Duke on his death and made into a museum the following year at his command.

Not many composers enjoyed such lofty patronage. Many, posthumously of course, have had to be content with municipal pride. Small communities in various parts of Europe have assigned space within even quite modest public buildings to the honouring of distinguished local composers. There is a room dedicated to Reger, who was born in a house just across the road, in the tiny mayoral offices of Brand, in the Oberpfalz, north Bavaria. A rather grand one honours Sarasate in the local archive offices at Pamplona.

Maybe You Like Them Too

Leave a Reply

67 + = 72