Development of a genius: an autographed Beethoven score hears a bid of $245,000

On Wednesday (December 1), Sotheby's offered an auction of fine books and manuscripts relating to music, and continental and Russian books and manuscripts.

It was a relatively small sale by the auctioneer's standards, but offered a selection of pieces guaranteed to grab the attention of a wide range of collectors.

One lot which underlined the strength of the Russian collectibles market was Nikolai Kutepov's four volume work The Royal (Imperial) Hunt in Russia. The work is believed to be the first Russian work to describe hunting and imperial hunts from the tenth through nineteenth centuries. It sold for £51,650 ($80,000).

The twin predicted top lots, which had each been listed at £80,000-100,000 ($126,000-157,000) did not disappoint. These were two manuscripts signed by Beethoven and Mozart, originally acquired in Vienna during the 1840s and until now never been publically offered at auction.

First was a remarkable manuscript from Mozart: his personal copy of part of the finale of Michael Haydn's D major symphony MH 287.

Mozart held the older composer in high esteem, and this copy points to a possible performance of the work at one of the famous Sunday musical gatherings held by his patron Baron Gottfried van Swieten in Vienna - gatherings which had an enormous influence on Mozart's own musical education.

Noting the historical importance of the work, (which obviously adds to its potential as an investment) bidders quickly pressed the price past its estimate to sell for £121,250 ($189,000).

Beethoven autographed score
Beethoven autographed score

However, Beethoven's manuscript easily eclipsed that of his predecessor. This was an autographed working manuscript from part of the full score of Beethoven's 'Opferlied OP.121B for soprano solo, obligato cello, chorus and orchestra'.

The most exciting thing for collectors of Beethoven's music is the number of alterations marked on the manuscript which is the only surviving section from his original composition draft for the song.

Enthusiastic collectors buffeted the price all the way up to £157,000 ($245,000). This will be music to the ears of anyone investing in manuscripts from comparable composers. Away from the sale, a rare autographed music sheet from Franz Liszt is currently available.


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