Genus Bononiae – San Colombano. Tagliavini Collection

The restored San Colombano complex, owned by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Bologna, is part of the Genus Bononiae network of city museums in Bologna. Since 2010, it houses the extraordinary collection of musical instruments put together by Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini, the Bolognese musician and scholar.

The collection – the result of a fifty-year effort – comprises about 80 perfectly functioning instruments representing various Italian and European schools spanning five centuries: from 16th century items to 20th century folk instruments. Its focus is on keyboard instruments, from harpsichords to pianos, from organs to clavichords, and it includes such rare and unique items as Giovanni Ferrini’s combined harpsichord-fortepiano from 1746, or a foldable cembalo from the early 18th century.

The most representative Italian schools are those of Bologna and Naples, but there are also Roman and Venetian instruments, while one of the last harpsichords was made in Florence by Vincenzo Sodi (1791-1792).

The most important foreign instruments come from the main European capitals. Most notable among them are an “Italian-style” spinet by the Parisian Louis Denis (1681); two “table pianos” respectively built in London and Amsterdam in 1786; a “demi-incliné” piano made in Paris around 1860, and three grand pianos, two from Vienna (F. Hofmann ab. 1800 and M.A. Stein 1833) and one from Berlin (C. Bechstein 1866).

There are also some one-of-a-kind instruments such as Giuseppe Bisogno’s “crystal piano” (Naples c. 1860) and the “Dulcitone”, whose sound is produced by a range of tuning forks (Glasgow, Thomas Matchell, ab. 1910).

The collection also includes automatic and woodwind instruments, ranging from a 17th century flageolet to the very popular ocarinas of the 20th century.

Many instruments are embellished by paintings of landscapes and mythological scenes by leading artists who were either native to Italy or worked there. The collection is thus a valuable document of the history of music from an aesthetic and manufacturing point of view, and more broadly of the history of art and customs throughout Europe.

The San Colombano complex also houses a restoration workshop and the “Oscar Mischiati” music library.