During his lifetime, Enrico Toselli's fame derived mainly from a scandalous affair and marriage to Archduchess Luise of Austria-Tuscany. For a time the press and public overlooked the fact that he was a brilliant concert pianist and successful composer largely of light classical music. Toselli himself actually capitalized on his relationship with the Archduchess, who was the divorced former princess of Saxony, by writing a book about his stormy four-year affair with her. But for all his fame Toselli was ultimately not such a lucky fellow, dying at 42 and remembered for only a single piece, the ubiquitous Serenata, Op. 6, No. 1 (Rimpianto), for voice and piano. It is a salon piece -- sentimental, tuneful, light, and well-crafted. Toselli might well be happy for its popularity: Björling, Gigli, Lanza, Alfredo Kraus, and other notable singers have recorded it, and many instrumental versions have appeared over the years by artists like Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler and violinist André Rieu. But some renditions of the piece have not always been so flattering. In the end, though, the Serenata has afforded Toselli a place in our collective memory and may well draw attention to his other works, which include many songs, chamber music, two operettas, and a symphonic poem.
Enrico Toselli was born in Florence, Italy, on March 13, 1883. He was a talented child whose later studies with Giovanni Sgambati helped him launch a major career as a concert pianist. Toselli also studied composition with Giuseppe Martucci and Reginaldo Grazzini.
In 1900 Toselli wrote his famous Serenata on texts by Alfredo Silvestri. When Toselli met the Archduchess Luise a few years later he was in the midst of a burgeoning career as a composer and pianist. The two married in 1907, but shared little happiness together. Luise did provide the libretto to Toselli's 1912 operetta La cattiva Francesca. She also fashioned a scenario for his second operetta, La principessa bizzarra, which was premiered in 1913.
That same year Toselli's book of memoirs, Mari d'altesse: 4 ans de mariage avec Louise de Toscane, ex-princesse de Saxe, was published. The book may still be available under the English-version title Memoirs of the husband of an ex-crown princess.
In the years following his marriage, Toselli remained active as a composer and pianist and also taught music in his native Florence. He died there on January 15, 1926.