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Manuscript Fetches $1.72M

Published: December 2, 2005 (Issue # 1127)


LONDON A working manuscript of Ludwig van Beethovens Grosse Fuge has been sold for $1.72 million to an anonymous buyer, Sothebys auctioneers said.

Sothebys described the manuscript, discovered in a Pennsylvania seminary library, as an astounding and important discovery and possibly the most substantial manuscript of a Beethoven work to come up for sale in more than a century.

The buyer, who bid by telephone, paid $1.95 million, including the buyers premium, Sothebys said. It declined to say where the buyer was based.

The manuscript was only known from a brief description in a catalogue in 1890 and it has never before been seen or described by Beethoven scholars, said Stephen Roe, head of Sothebys manuscript department.

Its rediscovery will allow a complete reassessment of this extraordinary music.

The 80-page manuscript is a piano duet version (opus 134) of the last movement of Beethovens string quartet in B flat (opus 130), which was first performed in 1826, a year before his death.

The Grosse Fuge, composed as part of a commission from Prince Nikolay Golitsyn of St. Petersburg, was originally published as the finale of the string quartet.

Because players found the music so difficult the publisher asked for a simpler version, and the Grosse Fuge was then published separately (opus 133).

The piano manuscript was rediscovered earlier this year by librarian Heather Carbo at the Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., just outside Philadelphias city limits.

The manuscript is full of clues to Beethovens composition process. It is written in brown and black ink, sometimes over pencil and includes later annotations in pencil and red crayon. There is evidence of deletions, corrections, deep erasures, smudged alterations and several pages pasted over the original.

The extent of Beethovens working and reworking on the manuscript suggests that the composer accorded it great significance and leads to the suggestion that he may have given the four-hand version equal standing with the better-known quartet version, Sothebys catalogue said.

University of Pennsylvania musicologist Jeffrey Kallberg, who authenticated the manuscript, said it was in pristine condition because it has not been touched or moved for so many decades.

Its a very important discovery, he said. This was a controversial and not understood work because it was so ahead of its time. It sounds like it was written by a dissonant 20th century composer.

The manuscript was last mentioned in an 1890 auction catalogue from Berlin. The buyer is not documented, but seminary officials believe it was industrialist and composer William Howard Doane.

His daughter, Marguerite Treat Doane, in 1950 donated a collection of documents, including musical manuscripts that likely included the Beethoven, to pay for the construction of a chapel.

In all the Beethoven literature, its described as lost, said Roe. There are lots of alterations, changes, revisions that no one has ever seen.

It was the second major musical discovery at the seminary, which is part of Eastern University.

Manuscripts by Mozart, Haydn, Strauss, Meyerbeer and Spohr, also given by Doane, were found in a safe in 1990.

The proceeds from the sale of the Grosse Fuge will be used to pay the seminarys debts, build up the scholarship program and expand programs, the school said.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Sunday, Dec. 21


The Zenit St. Petersburg basketball team returns to the northern capital this evening for a matchup with Krasny Oktyabr, a Volgograd-based basketball club. Tickets for the game, which tips off at 6 p.m. this evening, can be purchased on the clubs website or at their arena, Sibur Arena, on Krestovsky island.


Satisfy your sugar cravings during Sweet New Year, an ongoing seasonal festival at the Raduga shopping center. Each weekend of December will welcome hungry visitors to taste hundreds of different kinds of desserts. Workshops are open to visitors and seasonal gifts can also be purchased for those rushing to finish their New Year shopping.



Monday, Dec. 22


Pick out the latest fashions as holiday gifts for loved ones or as early presents for yourself during the Christmas Design Sale at Kraft on Obvodny Kanal, starting on Dec. 20 and continuing through Dec. 27. Designer clothes will be on sale every day of the week or you can buy something more festive to decorate the home while sipping on hot coffee and perusing the various master classes.



Tuesday, Dec. 23


Meet Arctic explorers Fedor Konukhov and Viktor Simonov during SPIBAs and Capital Legal Services event Arctic Expedition this morning in the Mertens House business center at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. The meeting will discuss the explorers ongoing eco-social project and how companies can use the project as a unique marketing opportunity. Email office@spiba.ru by Dec. 22 if you wish to attend.



Wednesday, Dec. 24


The Anglican Church of St. Petersburg we will be holding a Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m. led by Rev Wm. Shepley Curtis of the Episcopal Church. The service will be held at the Swedish Church at 1/3 Malaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa.



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