Events | The Return of Thomas Mann's Piano – Inauguration by Igor Levit

Los Angeles | October 16, 2021

Celebration and concert with Igor Levit, Frido Mann and Minister of State Michelle Müntefering. Moderated by Alex Ross.

After almost 70 years, the Mann family’s baby grand piano finds its way back to its former home in California. Grandson Frido Mann donated the heirloom to the Federal Republic of Germany: "Out of gratitude for the German government's acquisition and rededication of Thomas Mann's former California exile home into a site of transatlantic dialogue in the service of democracy and peace, I have returned this historically symbolic and at the same time forward-looking instrument to its original home as a gift to the federal government."

The Wheelock grand piano was not only played by Mann's contemporaries such as the conductor Bruno Walter and the sociologist and composer Theodor W. Adorno. The instrument also accompanied the writer during the writing of his musical novel "Doktor Faustus" and he improvised on Wagner's "Tristan" chord on the instrument. When the Mann family returned to Europe in the early 1950s, they took the instrument with them to their home on Lake Zurich. Villa Aurora & Thomas Mann House had the grand piano completely overhauled with the support of the Berthold Leibinger Stiftung. Now the instrument will be inaugurated at the Thomas Mann House by Igor Levit, whom the New York Times described as "one of the most important artists of his generation." Michelle Müntefering, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, accepts the donation from Frido Mann on site. About the donation, she says: "Places like the Thomas Mann House are essential to meet the global challenges we face. I'm sure Thomas Mann would have been pleased that his grand piano is now returning to this special place."


Opening remarks: Steven Lavine, Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Thomas Mann House

Address: Michelle Müntefering, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office

Address: Frido Mann, donor of the instrument

Performance: Igor Levit, Piano Sonata No.1, in F minor, Op.2 No.1, Ludwig van Beethoven

Conversation: Igor Levit, Frido Mann and Michelle Müntefering, moderated by Alex Ross (The New Yorker)

Performance: Igor Levit, Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111, Ludwig van Beethoven

Ending: Nikolai Blaumer, Program Director Thomas Mann House


© Felix Broede / Sony Classical

Igor Levit has been named Musical America’s Recording Artist of the Year (2020), Gramophone Classical Music Awards Artist of the Year (2020), and the 2018 Gilmore Artist. In November 2020, he was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo. He is regular soloist with the world’s leading orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and the Vienna Philharmonic. Igor Levit’s 2019 highly-acclaimed first recording of the 32 Beethoven-Sonatas was awarded the Gramophone Artist of the Year Award as well as the Opus Klassik in autumn 2020. His recent release is a double album featuring Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues Op. 87 and Ronald Stevenson’s Passacaglia on DSCH. For his political commitment Igor Levit has been awarded the 5th International Beethoven Prize in 2019, followed by the award of the Statue B of the International Auschwitz Committee in January 2020. In October 2020, Igor Levit was recognized with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. Igor Levit is an exclusive recording artist of Sony Classical Exclusive Worldwide Management: Kristin Schuster, Classic Concerts Management GmbH


© Thomas Elsner

Frido Mann holds a PhD in Theology and is the grandson of Nobel Prize-winner Thomas Mann. He worked as a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology in Münster, Leipzig and Prague after studying music, catholic theology and psychology. Today, he lives as a freelance writer in Munich. He publishes essays and novels. He publishes essays and novels. Most recently, together with Christine Mann, Es werde Licht (2017) and Im Lichte der Quanten (2021). In his book Das Weiße Haus des Exils (2018), he recalls the Manns' political engagement in exile and confronts the question of what impact open dialogue can still have today. His most recent book is Democracy will win. Confessions of a Global Citizen (2021). Frido Mann was an Honorary Fellow at the Thomas Mann House. On several occasions during his childhood, he also spent extended periods of time at his grandparents' home in Pacific Palisades.



© Jorinde Gersina

Michelle Müntefering has been Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office since 14 March 2018. She is a member of the German Bundestag since 2013, directly elected in her constituency Herne/Bochum II. After her studies of journalism with a focus on economics (B.A.) she worked as a freelance journalist and as a research assistant at the German Bundestag. During the 18th legislative period Mrs. Müntefering was member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and rapporteur for Turkey and the Middle East in the Committee. She was the SPD parliamentary group’s spokesperson for Cultural and Education Policy Abroad and chairwoman of the German-Turkish Parliamentary Friendship Group of the German Bundestag. Inter alia Ms. Müntefering is member of the Board of Trustees of the German Federal Cultural Foundation, member of the Supervisory Board of the Humboldt Forum Kultur GmbH, and member of the Broadcasting Board of the Deutsche Welle.


© Josh Goldstine

Alex Ross has been the music critic at The New Yorker since 1996. His first book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, won a National Book Critics Circle Award and the Guardian First Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His second book, the essay collection Listen to This, won an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. His latest book is Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, an account of Wagner’s vast cultural impact. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Alex Ross is member of the Advisory Board of the Thomas Mann House.


Thomas Mann House
1550 N San Remo Drive
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

By invitation only.


An event by the Thomas Mann House.

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