Why Verdi smashed his first Spinet

31 May 2013

From: The Second Book of Great Musicians by Percy A Scholes, 1922

In a little Italian village, called Roncole, in the year 1813, lived two good people who kept a little inn, and sold groceries and tobacco. Their name was Verdi (Vair-dee), and they had a little son called Giuseppe (‘Jew-seppy’ is as near to the pronunciation as we can get in English spelling), who seemed to have a great talent for music. So they contrived to buy an old Spinet (a sort of harpischord), and of this their little boy was very proud.

I think they gave Giuseppe the Spinet while he was rather too young, for this tale is told about him. He was trying one day to play notes together so as to make good ‘chords’. He found one chord he liked very much, but when he tried to find it again he could not do so. He got into a childish rage at this, and taking up a hammer began to smash the Spinet. Fortunately his father came into the room and stopped him before much damage was done. Verdi afterwards made up for his foolish treatment of the instrument, for he kept it carefully all his life, and when, about eighty years after, he came to die, this old Spinet was still in his possession.

Verdi must have been a hard worker and his practice must have been very thorough, for the repairer who mended the instrument wrote inside it a description of the repairs he had done and ended:
I do this gratis in consideration of the good disposition the boy Giuseppe Verdi shows in learning to play on this instrument, which quite repays me for my any trouble.
(Signed) Stephen Calavettis, A.D. 1821

Smashed piano (not spinet)

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