MARSTONS MILLS MUSICIANS

MUSICAL MARSTONS MILLS

The prominent pianist Carlo Buonamici first bought land in Marstons Mills in 1909, and built a summer home on the Mystic Lake about 1912. He was well known in Europe and US for his performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and with the Kneisel Quartet, the leading string group of the country.

Buonamici was born in Florence Italy in 1875 to a musical family. His father Guiseppe was celebrated in Musical Times as “one of Italy’s foremost musicians and greatest pianists”. Nephew of the musician Ceccherini he studied under Liszt and Europe’s most famous conductor von Bülow, was a friend of Wagner, who gave him a big hug at the primiere of the opera Parsifal. He succeeded von Bülow as head of the Munich Conservatory, and became professor at the Florence Institute of Music. Papa “Beppe” was noted as editor of Beethoven’s sonatas.

His son Carlo (of Marstons Mills) was taught piano by his mother and father, and sent to Germany to study with his father’s friend von Bülow. At Würzburg at age 19 he won first prize as student of Van Zeil. He joined the Italian army during the disastrous Ethiopian War. If he was at the defeat of battle of Adua in 1896 he did not record it. That year he came to US and took part in a sabre competition at Harvard. He gave his first piano recital in Boston at age 22, playing the Hungarian Fantasy of his father’s friend Liszt. He was soon playing with the Boston Symphony, performing Chopin’s Concerto #2, following earlier concerts of the same piece by Centerville’s famous Amy Beach. In 1904 he played Rachmaninov’s first concerto for its first performance in Boston. Buonamici also played with the Kneisel Quartet, the leading string ensemble in America, including a New York premiere of Rubin Goldmark’s Quartet in A minor. In 1908 he joined another well-known pianist Felix Fox to found the Fox-Buonamici School of Pianoforte, with a faculty of 11, at 403 Marlborough St. in Boston. Among his students were the composer Grace Clough-Leightee, the founder of the Forest Hills School of Music Marta Malinowski, and Margaret Cravens, the close friend of the poet Ezra Pound who tragically died of suicide in 1912.

Buonamici was attracted to hunting in Marstons Mills. In June 1909 he came from Boston with his wife Bianca and son Beppie, who recovered from an auto accident here. Carlo had a motor boat, perhaps in Warrens Cove. In September he bought pieces of land on the Mills River off River Road from Lillie and Elliot Backus. After a European tour in 1911 he came down for a gunning trip, staying with George Childs across from Village Hall. He bought 15 acres of salt meadow in Scorton Creek from Bennett Cammett probably for hunting wildfowl. The next fall, 1912 he found the future site of the Tanampo Club between Indian Pond (Mystic) and Run Pond, bought about 12 acres from James H. Crocker’s family, to which he added five acres more the next year.

In 1913 he built a bungalow at the south end of Mystic Lake, probably by Newtown’s busiest builder, Charles L. Hamblin. When World War killed thousands he gave a benefit for widows of Italian soldiers in a concert with Boston Symphony. In 1917 he gave a concert at Liberty Hall. Following the collapse of Italy after the terrible defeat at Caporetto in the spring of 1918, Buonamici volunteered to serve again in the Italian army. On his return from Italy in 1919 he was to live only one year. He took a job as head of the music department at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington CT. At the start of the school year he suddenly collapsed and died, age only 55. His son Beppie, who had grown up summering on Mystic Lake was murdered in Italy three years later. His wife Bianca sold the Marstons Mills place in 1921, to become the Tanampo Club.

This article first appeared in The Barnstable Enterprise 31 March 2010

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