Text Box: PIANIST autographs


Phone: 212-860-5541  *  Fax: 917-677-8247


Price: $200.00



The great Italian pianist writes to his pupil Margaret Terry, Monday, not year, or place, but presumably Rome.  We offer with the original transmittal envelope.

Gentle Signorina,

I am distressed that you are indisposed.  I hope you will recover very soon.  Thank you for your good wishes which I return.

Most sincerely,

G. Sgambati

What makes this letter so interesting is not the content, and not just Sgambati, but to whom it is written.  Sgambati (1841-1914) had an aptitude for music and was brought as a child to Amerigo Barbieri, a pupil of Muzio Clementi.  He made his public debut at 6 and then was brought by his family in 1849 to Trevi where he studied with composer Tiberio Natalucci, who was a pupil of opera composer Niccolo Zingarelli.  He was then brought to Rome to study counterpoint and theory with Giovanni Aldega.  Already a virtuoso pianist, he was brought to Franz Liszt in 1862 who was then in Rome who acted not so much as a teacher, but more of an advisor to the young pianist.  Their friendship lasted until List’s death.  Sgambati graduated from Conservatorio Santa Cecilia in 1866 and embarked on a solo career as a touring virtuoso.  At the time one of the leading concert pianists on the circuit.  Sgambati was also a conductor, introducing Italy to many of the masterworks either never heard, or rarely heard by other European composers.  As of 1868 he was appointed Professor at Santa Cecilia and he offered free piano tuition to deserving pupils who could not afford his services.  Through Liszt, Sgambati met Wagner who championed the young pianists own compositions to the publisher Schott who then published his works with great success. Sgambati is considered the founder of the modern school of Italian pianism.

Now for the interesting association.  Margaret Terry Chanler (1862-1952) was born to a wealthy American ex-patriot family living in Rome.  A musical natural, she was brought to Sgambati for her piano lessons and based upon all information we have found, she was a highly skilled virtuoso quality pianist, though it appears she only played in private recitals, musicales and with her composer friends.  She was known to have played for Liszt as a girl.  That said, she moved in very important circles and was friendly with; Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, Arturo Toscanini, Francis Poulenc and Nadia Boulanger among others.  Poulenc apparently came to visit her weekly in her later life in her Parisian apartment to play duets on the piano with her.  She married a member of the Astor family, Winthrop Astor Chanler (1863-1926) who was a member of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders during the Spanish American War and was General Pershing’s Aide de Camp during World War I.  They moved in Society, lived in New York City as a member of the “Four Hundred”.  They initially lived in a mansion in Tuxedo Park which Margaret found boring, so they moved their Summer residence to the family mansion in Newport.  The house “Chanler Cottage” which is now a Newport hotel was built by Winthorp’s Father John Winthrop Chanler, a New York Congressman, married to John Jacob Astor’s great-grand daughter. Winthrop and Margaret left Newport in 1903 and purchased Sweet Briar Farm in Geneseo New York.  A working horse farm he was able to pursue his love of Fox hunting for the rest of his life.  Now Margaret had her other friends as well, Henry James for one called her “the most intellectual woman in America”.  One of her other great author friends was F. Scott Fitzgerald, who thought of her as “brilliant”.  For many years, Daisy Buchanan was thought to be Fitzgerald’s old girlfriend, Chicago socialite Ginevra King.  However, musicologist and author Andrea Olmstead recently released a book entitled, Who Was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Daisy?  Based upon Olmstead’s exhaustive research, it would appear Terry was the inspiration for Daisy Buchanan and also the impetus for other Fitzgerald leading ladies in “Tender is the Night” and “This Side of Paradise”. You see, while Margaret was old enough to be Fitzgerald’s mother, her nickname was Daisy and his close association with her son, the composer Theodore Chanler, he spent many days with her in New York, Newport and later in Geneseo.  Terry wrote the book, “Memory Makes Music” talking about her various friends and adventures in life.  Her letters and papers reside at the Houghton Library at Harvard.

A fascinating association letter.