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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, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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