The ranting maestro's gentle grandson

The ranting maestro's gentle grandson


norman lebrecht

January 05, 2012

Two tributes have appeared online for Walfredo Toscanini, grandson of the most terrifying maestro the world has ever seen. One (below) is from a close associate who helped run the Toscanini legacy.

The other here is from Bob Kosovsky of the New York Public Library Music Division. One day, maybe, the New York Times may get around to remembering Walfredo. Meantime, he’s being cremated. There is a memorial service next week, Weds. at 3:30 PM at Frank Campbell’s Funeral Home.

Walfredo Toscanini (at left) with Arturo Toscanini, his grandfather, during the 1950 tour of the NBC Symphony Orchestra

Walfredo Toscanini with his grandfather in 1950

Walfredo Toscanini, architect, Democratic political activist, and grandson
of the conductor Arturo Toscanini, died on December 31, 2011 at his home in
New Rochelle, NY. He was 82. His wife, Elaine, said that the cause was acute
myeloid leukemia, which he had been battling for two years.

Mr. Toscanini worked for more than half a century in the New York area and
was at various times a senior architect and code enforcement officer with
the New York State Urban Development Corporation; a director of marketing,
sales and project development with Artec Consultants; and a program manager
for the New York State Facilities Development Corporation. His clients in
private practice included Big Brothers of New York City, the YMCA of Greater
New York and the Bronx Council on the Arts, among many others.

At the firm Harrison & Abramowitz in the early 1960s, he designed several different seating plans for the then-new Philharmonic Hall.

In New Rochelle, where he had lived since 1969, he was a long-serving
district leader for the local Democratic Party. As a city councilman during
the 1970s and deputy mayor in 1975 and 1977 he helped to institute
professional city management, pushed for downtown redevelopment and was
active in creating Five Islands Park, an arts council, a housing
preservation program, senior citizens¹ housing and the expansion of the
public library into a cultural center.

But in artistic circles in New York and around the world Mr. Toscanini was
known for his efforts to preserve and disseminate the artistic legacy not
only of his grandfather but also of his mother, Cia Fornaroli, a pupil of
the famed ballet master Enrico Cecchetti and prima ballerina at La Scala in
Milan during the 1920s, and of his father, Walter Toscanini, a man of
letters, dance historian and anti-fascist activist. Walter Toscanini¹s
collection of dance-related materials, donated to the New York Public
Library after his wife¹s death, in 1954, formed the basis of that
institution¹s Dance Collection.

Following the deaths of his grandfather, in 1957, and his father, in 1971,
Walfredo Toscanini led and eventually won a lengthy campaign to have Arturo
Toscanini¹s archives and recordings made available to scholars and music
lovers at what is now the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
In 1987, he co-authored an illustrated book, ³Toscanini,² with longtime
friend and Opera News Associate Editor John Freeman. He contributed to many
publications, documentaries and other initiatives related to his
grandfather¹s long career as one of the most influential performing
musicians in history. In 2010 he was one of the prime movers behind
celebrations organized for the 100th anniversary of Puccini¹s opera ³La
Fanciulla del West,² which Arturo Toscanini had conducted at the
Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Walfredo Toscanini was born in Milan on August 16, 1928. He was an only
child and the oldest of Arturo Toscanini¹s three grandchildren. His cousin
Emanuela di Castelbarco, daughter of Arturo Toscanini¹s daughter, Wally, and
her husband, Count Emanuele di Castelbarco, lives in Italy, and their cousin
Sonia, daughter of the conductor¹s younger daughter, Wanda, and her husband,
the pianist Vladimir Horowitz, died in 1975. Walfredo Toscanini¹s vehemently
anti-fascist parents and grandparents agreed that he should not attend
Italian public schools, which, in the 1930¹s, were under the strict control
of Mussolini¹s government; instead, he was sent to a Swiss-run private
school in Milan, where he learned German and French and was not subjected to
fascist propaganda.

In the fall of 1938, after his grandfather had had a particularly worrying
run-in with the regime, the family moved to the United States, and
nine-year-old Walfredo was immediately enrolled in a New Jersey public
school, where he quickly acquired English. Although Arturo Toscanini was a
demanding taskmaster on the podium, he was a warmhearted and affectionate
grandfather, and there are many photographs and home movies of the Maestro
with his grandson at home, at Walfredo¹s summer camp in Maine, strolling on
the boardwalk in Atlantic City and during postwar visits to Italy. In the
mid-1940s, when young Walfredo and his parents lived with his grandparents
in Riverdale, Bronx, he attended Horace Mann High School. He later graduated
from the Yale University School of Architecture.

Mr. Toscanini, a kind and modest man with a lively sense of humor (he often
described himself as a ³professional grandson²), loved music and ballet and
was close to many of the singers and orchestra players who had worked with
his grandfather. Besides his wife, Elaine, née Troostwyk, a pianist and
fellow Yale graduate, to whom he was married for 53 years, he is survived by
his daughters Liana Toscanini, of Sandisfield, Mass.; Maia Toscanini Brown,
of Glen Burnie, Md.; and Cia Toscanini of Bronxville, NY (a vice-president
of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers – ASCAP), as
well as by two grandsons, Wyatt and Liam McBride.

Allan Steckler
Eroica Productions, inc


  • Gabriella Marchini says:

    Do you know the names of Santina Volonte parents ?
    My great grandmother was Cia Fornaroli cousin , probably from the mother side .
    I’m trying to understand how .

    Thank you
    Best regards