International museum and
library of music of Bologna

Museum / The collections / Musical instruments

The musical instruments displayed in the rooms of the museum originate from the collections of two important Bolognese institutions: the Museo Civico Medievale and the Civico Museo Bibliografico Musicale. The core of the musical instruments collection from the Museo Civico Medievale comes from the Liceo musicale founded in 1804: Federico Parisini (the Liceo librarian from 1881 to 1891) used to say that, following the Napoleonic suppressions, "the instruments, many famous musical works, chorus books, rare instruments, and other items related to music were sold publicly."

The central administration of the Dipartimento del Reno had asked the government of the Repubblica Cisalpina to purchase and conserve the objects that risked being dispersed. The recovered instruments were then entrusted to the Liceo and, in 1881, were finally added to the Museo Civico Medievale, where they have remained until today.

Among the most valuable instruments now displayed in the rooms of the museum is the Trasuntino harpsichord of 1606 (displayed in Room 4). It was constructed for Camillo Gonzaga, the Count of Novellara, and afterwards was passed to Giuseppe Baini (1775-1844), the celebrated author of the first biography of Palestrina, who left the harpsichord as a bequest in his will to the Liceo musicale. Other valuable instruments in the display are the Trasuntino monochord, which was built to tune the cymbal, and the 5-reed flute, which is noted as a harmony of flutes or the polyphonic flute (displayed in Room 5) and which bears the mark of Manfredo Settala (1600-1680), a Milanese rector, who was a great collector and famous personality in the cultural panorama of the 1600's.

The origin of the collection of musical instruments in the Civico Museo Bibliografico Musicale is more uncertain. The collection includes some particularly important models, such as eight pianos, five of which are grand pianos and three are rectangular, dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Among these are the priceless Erard from 1811 (that possibly belonged to Paolina Borghese), which was restored for the inauguration of the museum and is now exhibited in Room 8, Gioachino Rossini's Pleyel piano of 1844 (exhibited in Room 7), and the so-called "spinetta di Padre Martini", a rectangular Glonner from 1780 (displayed in Room 3). Other important instruments on display are the Heckelphon of 1900 (Room 8), various English horns, some cornets, and two oboes.