Auction houses have been dispersing artifacts that belonged to the conductor Arturo Toscanini, down to his batons and cuff links.
In November Sotheby’s in London sold hundreds of his possessions. A scuffed leather desk set brought about $3,600. A 1910 Steinway piano, occasionally played by the conductor’s son-in-law Vladimir Horowitz, went for around $71,000.
The material comes from the estate of a grandson, Walfredo Toscanini. Doyle New York will offer another batch in [January,] including flamboyant black and gray wool outfits ($300 to $500 each) and monogrammed silver napkin rings ($300 to $500 for a pair).
A Doyle’s sale on April 23 will contain arrangements in Toscanini’s bold calligraphy for works by Shostakovich, Berlioz and Mozart, among other composers. The heirs have also consigned the conductor’s version of “Happy Birthday,” customized for his grandson.
The bulk of Toscanini’s archive belongs to the New York Public Library. “We do have an arrangement of ‘Happy Birthday’ in there,” dedicated to Walfredo and combined with the Italian patriotic song “Garibaldi’s Hymn,” said Robert Kosovsky, the curator in charge of the material. Although the library does not plan to bid at Doyle, he added, “It’s good to know about this stuff.”
Institutions bought at the Sotheby’s sale. The museum at La Scala in Milan has already put on view some of Toscanini’s Verdi manuscripts, which cost a few hundred thousand dollars each, and the Vienna Philharmonic spent $30,000 on a multi-page album including a scrawled fragment of a Brahms score.