The Museum of Musical Instruments

Among the major transformations and adaptations imposed by Count Guido, combined with the imaginative creativity of Arturo Viligiardi, on Palazzo Saracini soon after he inherited it in 1906 was the work done on three rooms adjoining the concert hall, which were set up to house his own musical instruments. Over the years his holdings were expanded by the addition of numerous new pieces, turning this area of the palace into a real museum of musical instruments.

The original core of the collection consists of a group of bowed instruments commissioned by Count Guido and made by the Milanese-Cremonese luthier Leandro Bisiach between 1903 and 1915, which still today, because of their unique quality, are an important part of the museum. The collection, expanded by the count through purchases and gifts, encompasses, among other things, wind, keyboard, and folk instruments.

Starting in the 1980s, the Accademia Chigiana approached the problem of renovating its space, since the original arrangement of the museum had become inadequate. Under the invaluable guidance of Professor Vinicio Gai and architect Marco Tiella, the instruments were restored, while the Nepi-Terrosi architecture firm was asked to draw up plans for a new arrangement of the rooms and new display cases, in accordance with the most up-to-date rules of conservation and safety.

In 1995, the newly-configured museum was reopened.

Among the instruments in the museum is an exceptional harpsichord built in 1515 by Vincentius – the oldest known instrument of its kind in the world – a cello by Antonio Stradivarius, a viola and a cello by Nicola Amati, a violin by Mattia Albani, and a violin by Cammilli. Beyond the bounds of the museum space, the academy also has other historic instruments, including the Bechstein piano which belonged to Liszt and two organs, the largest of which dominates the gallery of the concert hall.

The process of enriching the Chigiana’s collection of musical instruments has continued over the years with the addition of:

  • A fortepiano built around 1837 by Érard in Paris, which belonged to Pietro Mascagni and was donated by Dr. Edoardo Farinelli, a descendant of the famous musician;
  • A viola d’amore, which belonged to the violist Dino Asciolla and was donated by Valeria Mariconda;
  • A viola attributed to Testore, given to the academy by Maestro Aldo Bennici, which is currently on loan to Daniel Palmizio, a young Chigi talent who plays it all over the world and with it won the International Competition in Budapest;
  • A Glockenspiel donated by Professor Piero Meolgrani;
  • A mandolin of the Neapolitan school donated by Professor Antonino Tumeo;
  • A harpsichord built in 1912 by Pleyel in Paris, donated by the pianist Stelio Maroli, who collaborated with the academy in the past. Maroli also gave us a major music collection, which has already been catalogued and incorporated into our library.

The Chigiana’s collection of musical instruments now numbers about ninety pieces.

In 1995, in conjunction with the opening of the new space, a detailed catalogue was published.

The museum is open to the public and is part of the itinerary of the guided tour of Palazzo Chigi Saracini.