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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

Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of Repulsion at 7 p.m. and Rosemarys Baby at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy The Tenant, the cult comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers and Cul-de-sac among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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