Cantoni Museum – Coltaro di Sissa

They performed on the set of Bernardo Bertolucci’s film “Novecento” as Gérard Depardieu and Dominique Sanda danced to their music during the country fair scene: they are the musicians of Concerto Cantoni – a woodwind ensemble renowned throughout the lower Parma plain – who have had a museum dedicated to them since 2005.

The Cantoni Museum is housed in the former schoolhouse of Coltaro di Sissa, thanks to a collaborative effort involving the “Tradizioni della Bassa” Association, active since 1998, and the “La Duchessa” Society, under an agreement with the municipality of Sissa and “Comunalia” in Coltaro.

The Museum displays musical instruments that belonged to the Cantoni family and other musicians from renowned woodwind ensembles, vintage photographs, concert posters, and extensive documentation. All of the material was collected and catalogued by Eugenio Martani.

The origins of Concerto Cantoni date back to the mid-19th century.

Giuseppe Cantoni, born in 1841 in Lentigione di Brescello, a peasant by trade, founded his “Concerto” in 1861. It was composed of 12-13 musicians who played almost exclusively wind instruments: trumpets, trombones, baritone saxhorns, clarinets, and quartinos (small, E-flat clarinets with a characteristic clear, ringing sound) with the addition of a bass horn and a contrabass. Over the years, Cantoni encouraged all his children (9 sons and 5 daughters) to take up music, turning the whole family into a musical ensemble.

Concerto Cantoni began playing country fairs, and quickly gained fame and popularity. The type of music they played was a hit with the audience: waltzes, polkas, and mazurkas were shifting away from being genres reserved for the aristocracy and bourgeoisie and moving towards becoming folk music, the soundtrack to any celebration. Other local woodwind ensembles sprung up in Giuseppe Cantoni’s footsteps: these included Concerto Pinazzi in Bocca d’Enza, Concerto di Barco in Bibbiano, Concerto Rossi-Jofini in Rocca Bianca, Concerto Capelli in Pieveottoville and Concerto Casanova in Colorno.

Giuseppe Cantoni died in 1909. His son Fernando (1886-1967) became the ensemble’s leader, and was succeeded by his own son Serino (1916 -2012), a virtuoso baritone saxhorn player. Today Concerto Cantoni is directed by Eugenio Martani, a quartino player who is the heart and soul of the Museum.