Music has always been an important source of wellbeing in the life of the Munthes family. Axel Munthe himself became a good singer and a well-respected amateur pianist. As a child he received piano lessons and even if discipline in the pharmacist’s family was strict, there was lots of music.
His father Fredrik was a ballad singer, with a repertoire that included Carl Michael Bellman’s “Epistles and Songs” and Gunnar Wennerberg’s “The Boys”. He was also said to play the violin. Munthe’s mother Lovisa sang hymns and spiritual songs for the children, and Anna, Axel’s sister, was also a skilled ballad singer.
At an early age Axel Munthe came to know the songs of Franz Shubert, Robert Schumann and Hugo Wolf, and the written work of Goethe, Schiller, Shober, and others;
Musical soirées were held in the relative Carl Munthe’s Villa Beateberg on Kummelnäs Bay outside Stockholm and these were a natural center for the Munthe family’s musical camaraderie. Carl Munthe was the son of Court of Appeals judge Henrik Munthe who was also a violinist and president of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. The “Swedish Nightingale” Jenny Lind was also a regular visitor to this music home, and she even had her concert piano there.
Naturally the young Axel was influenced musically by all this. Later in life he was fortunate enough to have Queen Victoria as his accompanist privately on Capri, and apparently also at Tullgarn and Solliden, the royal summer residences in Sweden. As a child Victoria had received excellent training in the piano and as a young girl she had been been a “page-turner” for no less than Franz Liszt.
Axel Munthe sometimes served as organist for the parish church Santa Sofia in Anacapri. In a letter dated April 19, 1889 he writes to his benefactor and “confessor”, the diplomat and ambassador in Paris Georg Sibbern:
There is no doubt that Axel Munthe prized music highly, but in his own way. Vicar
Heribert Jansson, a minister at the Swedish Church in Berlin, visited Villa San Michele once. He writes:
"In the afternoons there was music. These moments were unforgetable, when the Queen sat at the piano in the chapel of San Michele and from the doorway came Munthe with his excellent voice sang, for example, Hugo Wolfs ‘Du bist Orplid, mein Land' (Gesang Weylas) or an aria from Wagner’s operas."
Perhaps it is the music in Nature that grants the wholeness and broadens Axel Munthe's insights, nature lover that he is.