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Since the Harvard Center for Renaissance Studies was established in 1961, musical programs have included public concerts, intimate recitals for the community and performances by musicologists in residence.

The series Early Music at I Tatti, established in 2002, offers twice-yearly concerts for the general public, given by musicians of international renown. These aim to present to the Tuscan community innovative programs of early music which examine a particular theme or idea, such as the concept of humour in Renaissance music, the traditional therapeutic repertoire for the bite of the tarantula spider in southern Italy, musical settings of texts from Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata, or music for the carnival season in early modern Venice. Many offer repertoires which are rarely heard in Italy today, from works by one of the earliest known Florentine composers, Don Paolo da Firenze (fl. 1390-1425), to music written for the Hapsburg court at Vienna in the mid seventeenth century by Italian composers.

Contemporary music is sometimes an integral part of the programs: one concert juxtaposed Petrarch settings by Renaissance composers with settings by the English composer Gavin Bryars; another alternated musica nova by the Renaissance composer Adriano Willaert with works by contemporary composers. Some feature world premieres of music commissioned by Villa I Tatti for the occasion. Two ‘musicians in residence’ now join us for a brief period each year to discuss their music and perform for the community.

Music has long played a part in the cultural life of of the Villa. Otto Klemperer, Yehudi Menuhin, Igor Markevitch, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Gaspar Cassadò, Louis Kentner, Roger Sessions, and Kathleen Ferrier were amongst  Berenson’s  distinguished guests, and their letters are preserved with the Bernard and Mary Berenson Papers. The Villa is the proud possessor of an historic Knabe grand piano dated ca.1885, which belonged to Hans von Bulow and which Berenson bought from his heirs. Documented in photographs of Yehudi Menuhin playing in the Berenson studiolo accompanied by his son Jeremy, it is still enjoyed by visiting musicians today. We now also own a fine harpsichord by Ugo Casiglia, based on the Giovanni Battista Giusti of 1693  in the Smithsonian Insitute, which was generously commissioned and donated by Former Fellow Frederick Hammond (VIT 1972). The first formal concert at Villa I Tatti was given by Ralph Kirkpatrick, who played his clavichord in the library in 1933.

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