Saturday, July 14, 2012

Laura Archera

Laura Archera (Laura Archera Huxley) was an Italian violinist, writer, filmmaker, and lay psychologist born (in Turin, Italy) on November 2, 1911.  She is best known for having been the wife of writer, philosopher, and LSD guru Aldous Huxley.  Her career somewhat mirrors that of Olga Rudge, a highly accomplished violinist who gave up her career for Ezra Pound, the controversial writer, poet, composer, and political activist.  Several sources state that Archera began her violin studies at the age of ten in Turin, Italy.  Encouraged by her father, she dropped out of formal school at age fourteen in order to focus on her music studies.  At that age also, she played for the Queen of Italy (Marie-Jose’.)  According to a usually reliable source, she then traveled to Berlin, Paris, and Rome for further study.  The same source states that she earned her degree in Rome at age 17.  Another source, however, states she graduated at age 21.  In Paris she studied with George Enesco; in Berlin, with Carl Flesch; in Rome, I do not know.  She gave numerous recitals throughout Europe during these years.  It is also stated in various easily available sources that she traveled between Europe and the U.S. for several years.  She made her U.S. debut in 1937 in Carnegie Hall playing Mozart’s fifth concerto, accompanied by the New York Women’s Orchestra.  She was 26 years old.  She then went on to study at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.  How much playing she did (or where) in the U.S. is not well-documented on the internet, so I have no clue about that.  Some sources state that she played at Carnegie Hall as a teenager but those same sources say that she first came to the U.S. shortly before the war.  Both statements cannot be right.  After the start of World War II (1939), she did not return to Europe.  She played in the Los Angeles Philharmonic from the beginning of the 1943-1944 season to the end of the 1945-1946 season.  She owned and played a 1705 (Cozio says 1703) Guarnerius violin, an early gift from her father (a stockbroker), which, supposedly, she later donated to violinist Yehudi Menuhin, though I find that very, very hard to believe.  Even extremely generous people do not donate such valuable instruments, unless they are wealthy philanthropists.  In any case, Menuhin had the violin until 1978, after which the violin was auctioned off.  Archera did have her precious Guarnerius at least up until 1961.  It was one of the few things she was able to save when her house in Hollywood burned down.  She began working as a free-lance film editor at RKO Studios at about the time she quit her job with the Los Angeles Philharmonic though she had been delving into documentary filmmaking since 1945.  If she ever played the violin again after 1946 is anybody’s guess.  She was only 35 years old.  Along the way, she wrote several self-help books, a memoir-biography of Huxley (whom she married in 1956), and started a group that helps children and parents of children.  Archera died on December 13, 2007, at age 96.  As far as I know, she died without ever having recorded anything.  


  1. I am indebted to Steve Lacoste, Archivist of the LA Phil, for a critical detail in this blog. Thanks.

  2. This is violinist profile number 300.