VIOLIN PRODIGY to PARIAH: GUILA BUSTABO (1916-2002) [U.S.A.]
Advertising covers have a fascination for many cover collectors, in that they are almost invariably not philatelically contrived, they often are things of beauty, and they frequently tell a story. The different types of advertisements are legion and collectors can specialize in a particular type such as adverts for machinery, perfumes, shoes, hotels and maps, to name but a few. The present cover caught my eye but not as a thing of beauty. I enjoy good violin music, but I can't recall seeing a cover advertising two farewell violin recitals (or any other classical music performances).
The cover was addressed to the S.A. Railways, North Terrace, ADELAIDE. The Comptroller's office. The advert was in deep blue with a fancy border above and below, and it stated: TWO FAREWELL RECITALS by GUILA BUSTABO "Wonder Girl of the Violin" TOWN HALL Tuesday, 1st NOVEMBER / Thursday, 3rd NOVEMBER If not delivered please return to AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING COMMISSION G.P.O. BOX 247 C., ADELAIDE. Note that the year is not given (a Perpetual Calendar confirms that the days are consistent with the year1938), and the boxed postmark is shown as: ADELAIDE/ 2 10 PM 2/ 18 OCT/ 1938/ S. A., together with the slogan AIR MAIL /SAVES TIME (Figure 1).
Two American prodigy violinists were born in successive years, Guila at Manitowoc, Wisconsin in 1917 (there are inconsistencies in her stated birth date ranging from 1916 to 1918), and Ruggiero Ricci in1918. Both studied with the leading American pedagogue of the day Louis Persinger and both gravitated to Europe after their USA debuts. The two Farewell Recitals were somewhat prophetic for Guila's subsequent career as a concert violinist was blighted by circumstances related to the Second World War.
Bustabo enjoyed the greater earlier celebrity, her first concert was at the age of five, her New York debut was at 13, and her London debut was in 1934. During the war years she was very popular in Germany, and this led to her being accused of Nazi and Fascist leanings. After the War she was arrested in Paris in 1946, accused of being a Nazi sympathizer, but eventually the charges were dropped. An interesting sideline to these charges was a valuable violin she borrowed to play in London, a Guaneri del Gesu. She also wanted to take this violin on a Scandinavian tour and Lady Ravensdale, a great patron of music, purchased it and presented it to the delighted 18-year-old. Unfortunately, Lady Ravensdale's sister was married to Sir Oswald Mosely, the leader of the infamous British Union of Fascists, and this association contributed to the ominous repercussions.
She never regained her previous popularity for her violin playing was described by a fellow violinist as if "her development had been halted and seemed to be suspended in time." She resigned herself to teaching at the Conservatory of Innsbruck in Austria from 1964 to 1970, and when she returned to the USA in 1970 she settled in Birmingham, Alabama. Here she occasionally appeared in concerts, but more frequently sat among the rank and file of the other violinists.
The teenage Guila was described by the pianist Ivor Newton as follows: "She looks like an angel and she plays like an angel" and her classic features and long, dark hair plus her charismatic platform personality were a blend of her Italian-French father and Bohemian mother. Just as her name was united in her early career with Ruggiero Ricci (a slow bloomer but of longer lasting virtuosity), she is still united to him in a compact disc featuring both as independent artists (Figure 2).
This paper was published in the N.S.W. Philatelist , May 2004, Volume 26, Number 2, pages 9 - 10.