The Rosen House: Built for Music

The Rosen House Music Room

The Rosen House Music Room

Caramoor’s extraordinary Music Room – the literal and figurative center of Walter and Lucie Rosens’ life together – displays much of the Renaissance art Walter collected during the early 20th century. Before the home was opened to the public some 40 years ago, each object in the room was inventoried and cataloged. During that documentation process, Caramoor’s administrators, guided by Anne Bigelow Stern, the Rosens’ only daughter, learned a great deal about the objects and the couple who devoted their lives to the appreciation of music.

Despite such an exhaustive documentation – thousands of art objects and furnishings are spread throughout the 25,000-square-foot mansion – Caramoor administrators are still uncovering new material.

Both Lucie and Walter left extensive files of correspondence, diaries, receipts,

and plans. Since January 2010, Rosen House Manager and Director of Programs Merceds Santos-Miller and a team of consultants and volunteer docents have examined more than 26,000 documents that had remained in the Rosen House, untouched, for more than four decades.

The research team discovered personal letters to friends and family from both Rosens; Mrs. Rosen’s beautifully illustrated diaries; and detailed instructions for the daily administration of the house and gardens. The paperwork also includes more than 500 blueprints and other documents related to the construction of Caramoor.

The archives also reveal the deep love of music the Rosens shared with each other and their friends. Walter was an accomplished amateur pianist who at one time considered pursuing a professional career in music. Lucie learned to play the theremin, one of the first electronic instruments, and performed widely, both at Caramoor and throughout the country and abroad.

“Walter created the Music Room not only to present music, but also to enjoy music amidst the things he loved the most; his art and his friends,” Ms. Santos-Miller said, explaining that after purchasing the Katonah property in 1928 the Rosens joined the Bedford Friends of Music, a local group that held concerts at members’ houses. “They built Caramoor with the intention of creating and enjoying music,” she explained.

At the time, many private houses had dedicated music rooms, generally much smaller than the Rosens’ Music Room, which can accommodate an audience of 200. “Music was so important to the Rosens they had an entire room devoted to the enjoyment of it,” Ms. Santos-Miller said. The Music Room became the setting for musical soirées and masked balls. Among the guests to visit and perform were pianists José Iturbi and Arthur Rubinstein; violinists Joseph Szigeti and Zino Francescatti; harpsichordist Wanda Landowska; tenor John McCormack; conductors Bruno Walter and Fritz Reiner; and composer Ernest Bloch.

While the archival project has revealed many insights to the Rosens’ lives, several mysteries still remain. For instance, the Music Room includes an organ loft, yet the Rosens never purchased an organ. “We don’t know if there’s a story behind it,” Ms. Santos Miller said. Perhaps one of the blueprints – many are still rolled up after being stored away some 70 years ago – holds a clue.”

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