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Anthony di Bonaventura papers (MSS 64)


Held at: Archives [Contact Us]1720 Locust St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Pianist and professor Anthony di Bonaventura was born on November 12, 1929 in Follansbee, WV. Although his parents were not themselves musical, Anthony and his three siblings (two brothers and a sister) all exhibited early musical talent, with Anthony being encouraged at the age of 3 to take up the piano to accompany his older siblings on their violins. His prodigious ability was soon evident, and he gave his first public performance at age 4. Prompted by their son's success, the di Bonaventuras moved to New York City where, at age 6, Anthony (along with his three siblings) won a scholarship to the Third Street Music School Settlement. Five years later he played at Carnegie Hall and, at age 13, he made his first appearance as a solo pianist with the New York Philharmonic.

After completing his instruction at Third Street di Bonaventura studied under piano pedagogue Isabelle Vengerova, first privately and then, in 1949, as one of her students at the Curtis Institute of Music. Of learning from Vengerova, di Bonavetura said "She put me through hell for 18 months. I had to relearn, physically, how to play the piano — I was forbidden to play any music, only Madame Vengerova's exercises and some scales, for a year and a half." But di Bonaventura more than succeeded, graduating with highest honors from Curtis in 1953. However, after leaving Curtis, he put his musical career on hold for the next few years to marry Sara Delano Roosevelt (granddaughter of Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt) and serve in the military.

After his discharge from the Army di Bonaventura began touring professionally, performing with orchestras both domestic and international. Over his career he visited 25 countries and played with such esteemed orchestras as the Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, and Vienna Symphony.

Career highlights include his being handchosen by Otto Von Klemperer to play Beethoven's last three piano concerti at the London Beethoven Festival, appearing in the Great Performaces series at Lincoln Center, and his recordings of works by Scarlatti, Chopin, Debussy, and Rachmaninoff. di Bonaventura also notably performed works written expressly for him by, among others, Alberto Ginastera, Vincent Perschetti, Lucio Berio, and Gyorgy Ligeti.

In the early 1970s di Bonaventura's career as a concert pianist began to slow as he took up an increasing amount of teaching responsibilities at Boston University and, later, Colby College. It was at Colby that he founded the Piano Institute in 1974, serving as its director until 2003.

Anthony di Bonaventura died on November 12, 2012.

"Virtuosity is a two-edged sword," he told the Boston Globe in 1978. "You have to develop this tremendous skill in order to exhibit yourself to the public. But that same virtuosity leaves you with no place to hide: it can expose how empty your mind is. If you do not have cultural awareness and musical understanding, you have nothing."

The di Bonaventura papers span from his performances as a child through to his work as a professor of piano.

The collection includes correspondence, contracts, publicity materials, programs, reviews, and promotional photographs.

The collection is divided into the following series: 1. Education 2. Performances 3. Correspondence 4. Photographs 5. Miscellaneous

Each series is chronological except for the correspondence which is organized alphabetically

Gift of the estate of Anthony di Bonaventura

The photographs have been separated and are housed within the photograph collection as number 913.

Oversized promotional posters housed separately

Finding Aid Author
Kristina Wilson
Finding Aid Date
July 2017
Use Restrictions

This collection is open for research

Collection Inventory

Third Street Music School Settlement, 1943, 1963.
Box 1
Curtis Institute of Music, 1952-1965.
Box 1

Contracts, 1957-1990.
Box 1
Scope and Contents

Includes contract with Vincent Persichetti for the commission and performance of his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra

Programs, 1952-1991.
Box 1
Biographies, 1960s-1980s.
Flyers and brochures, 1941-2001; undated .
Posters, 1952-2004.
Box 3 (OZ)
Repertoires, 1960s-1980s.
Europe, 1957-1959.
Box 1
United States, 1953-1988.
Box 1 Box 2

Achucarro, Joaquin, 1984-1985.
Alec Clunes Bookshops, 1959 November 27.
Related Materials

This letter was found in the score for Frederic Chopin's Allegro de concert for piano op. 46 housed in Special Collections.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 1956-1959.
Chagall, Marc, 1972.
Coast, John, 1959-1960.
Cohen, Harriet, 1957.
Related Materials

This letter was found in the score for Charles Ives' Sonata No. 2, housed in Special Collections. The score is inscribed/signed by Harriet Cohen and Betsey Whitney.

di Bonaventura, Mario, 1968.
De Koos, G., 1956-1957.
Feldman, Maurice, 1965-1966.
Gedenyi, Ildiko, 1966.
Related Materials

see also Kodaly, Zoltan correspondence

Ginastera, Alberto, 1968 October 1.
Gorlinsky, S.A., 1957-1958.
Handt, Herbert, 1961-1971.
Hindesmith, Paul, 1962.
Kodaly, Zoltan, 1965-1966.
Related Materials

see also Gedenyi, Ildiko correspondence

Mennini, Louis, 1984 September 5.
National University Orchestra (Mexico), 1966-1967.
Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet, 1965.
Menotti, Gian Carlo, 1958.
Neuman, Herman, 1966 February 17.
Rachlin, Ezra, 1972-1973.
Ré, Peter, 1992-1994.
Settlement Music School, 1962-1963.
Stokowski, Leopold, 1965.
Tampa Philharmonic Association, Inc., 1967.
U.S. Department of State, 1964-1966.

Family, circa 1938.
Isabelle Vengerova, circa 1932.
Isabelle Vengerova's piano class at Curtis, circa 1953.
Promotional/Publicity, circa 1953-1980.
Otto Klemperer (autographed), 1959.
Post recital talk, circa 1960.
With wife Sara Delano Roosevelt di Bonaventura and family (VOGUE photo shoot), 1964.
With Vincent Persichetti, 1964.

(2) photographs from the same performance

With brother Mario di Bonaventura and Vincent Persichetti, 1964.
Scope and Contents

(2) images

With Eugene Ormandy, 1965 December 28.
Arthur Rubinstein (autographed), 1967.
With Simone Guttman, 1984.
Class at Colby Piano Institute, circa 1985.
Class at Colby Piano Institute, circa 2012.

Biography/curriculum vitae, 1980; undated.
Interviews, 1992; 2001; undated.
Recordings, 1990-1993.

Print, Suggest