Seminar Series

Toscanini: Musician of Conscience

A seminar with

Harvey Sachs 

Author of Toscanini: Musician of Conscience, editor and translator of The Letters of Arturo Toscanini

James Melo

musicologist for the Ensemble for the Romantic Century and Senior Editor at RILM Abstracts of Music Literature

THURSDAY, December 13


CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, Skylight Room, 9th floor


For more information:; 212-817-8606

Presented by the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation, CUNY,

and the Ensemble for the Romantic Century in connection with ERC’s theatrical concert


By the late 1920s, Arturo Toscanini - then in his early sixties - was music director of La Scala in Milan and the New York Philharmonic, and beyond a doubt the most celebrated conductor in the world. He had worked with many of the world's most important opera ensembles and symphony orchestras, had brought about major reforms in the former, and had raised performance standards in the latter. But his hatred of Mussolini's fascist regime was beginning to become public knowledge. He declared that he would not perform again in Italy unless and until the fascist regime fell, and he extended his protest to Germany in 1933, when Hitler came to power, and to Austria in 1938, when that country became part of the Third Reich. In 1936 and 1938 he went to Palestine at his own expense to conduct the new symphony orchestra (now the Israel Philharmonic) made up largely of Jewish refugees from central Europe, and he spent the war years in exile in the United States, where he conducted concerts to benefit the Allied war effort and the Red Cross, helped refugee musicians less fortunate than himself to find work, and participated, with other leading Italian antifascist exiles, in efforts to insure that postwar Italy would have a truly democratic government. In this interview and conversation, Harvey Sachs will discuss the life and career of Toscanini, his political activism, and the scholarly process behind the writing of the definitive biography of the great maestro.

Harvey Sachs’s most recent book is Toscanini, Musician of Conscience, published by Liveright, New York, in 2017. His other books include Virtuoso, Music in Fascist Italy,  Rubinstein: A Life, Reflections on Toscanini, The Ninth: Beethoven and the Year 1824, and, as co-author, Plácido Domingo’s My First Forty Years and Sir Georg Solti’s Memoirs. He also edited and translated The Letters of Arturo Toscanini.  He has written for the New Yorker, New York Times, Times Literary Supplement of London, La Stampa, Il Sole-24 Ore, and many other publications, as well as for radio and television. He is on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia; gives lectures at universities and cultural institutions worldwide; and has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Public Library's Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He lived in Europe – mainly in Italy – for over thirty years and was Artistic Director of the Società del Quartetto di Milano. In 2017 he received an honorary knighthood from the President of Italy for his contributions to Italian culture.



With each concert production ERC hosts a seminar. This series of seminars at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), in partnership with the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation, fulfills one of the founding principles of ERC: merging performance and musicological research in order to enrich the musical experience of the listener through a variety of interdisciplinary discussions. Each seminar centers on a discussion of music in relation to an extra-musical context (literature, philosophy, visual arts, cinema, and others) that is pertinent to the parallel ERC theatrical concert. Scholars from a wide range of disciplines are invited to participate in the seminars, offering the audience an opportunity to engage in intriguing, illuminating, and aesthetically revealing perspectives about the subject matter.

The seminars are free to the public and are held one to two weeks before the concerts.

James Melo has written extensively for scholarly journals and music magazines in Brazil, Uruguay, the United States, and Austria, and has been invited to participate as a panel discussant in conferences in Indiana, New York, and Canada. He has written program notes for several concerts at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and for over 70 recordings on the Chesky, Naxos, Paulus, and Musikus labels, among others. He is the New York correspondent for the magazine Sinfónica in Uruguay, reviewer of music iconography for the journal Music in Art, and senior editor at RILM (Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale) at CUNY. In March 2005, he chaired a session in the conference Music and Intellectual History, organized by the Barry Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation (CUNY), and presented a paper on the history of musicological research in Brazil. He received a grant from the Paul SacherStiftung in Basel, Switzerland, where he conducted research on the manuscripts of Anton Webern.

Mr. Melo is the program annotator for the recording of the complete piano music of Villa-Lobos and Camargo Guarnieri on Naxos, and the program annotator for the National Philharmonic in Strathmore, MD.In 2006and 2007 he collaborated with the Montréal Chamber Music Festival as musicologist and program notes writer. In March 2008, he chaired a session on music iconography in Brazil and Portugal in the conference Music, Body, and Stage: The Iconography of Music Theater and Opera at CUNY Graduate Center. He was the scriptwriter for Seduction, Smoke and Music, performed at The Tuscan Sun Festival in Cortona in the summer of 2011, with Jeremy Irons as Chopin and Sinéad Cusack as George Sand. Mr. Melo has authored several scripts for the Ensemble for the Romantic Century, including My Heart, My Serpent: Thus Spake Zarathustra, Schubert’s Dream, The Trial of Oscar Wilde, Porust’s Courts of Love, Emily Dickinson: Herself to Her a Music, Dracula, Cruel Beauty: Rimbaud and Verlaine, and The Sorrows of Young Werther. Mr. Melo is on the piano and musicianship faculty at the Diller-Quaile School of Music in New York City.




Our mind is an abyss which delights in depths profound…
We love mystery, under whatever form it comes.
— Honoré de Balzac