Sotheby's Sells Manuscript of Beethoven's Ninth for $3.5 Mln

The working manuscript of the first edition of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, completed in 1824 when the composer was already deaf, sold at Sotheby’s today for a record 2.13 million pounds ($3.48 million.)

The score is probably the “most important musical work ever to appear at auction,” the auction house said in an e-mailed statement. The music was copied directly from the autograph full score, now in Berlin’s Staatsbibliothek.

“It is an incomparable manuscript of an incomparable work, one of the highest achievements of man, ranking alongside Shakespeare’s Hamlet and King Lear,” Stephen Roe, head of the Manuscripts Department at Sotheby’s, said.

Two unidentified bidders drove up the price before one dropped out. The successful buyer, who bid by telephone, paid the most ever for a Beethoven manuscript, Sotheby’s said.

The 575-page score, prepared for Beethoven by a pair of copyists, was sold by Sotheby’s on behalf of an unidentified charitable foundation. It is marked by the composer with late revisions and deletions and is believed to have been the original sheet music used at the premiere in Vienna in 1824. Scrawled on one page is a message to one of the scribes: “du verfluchter Kerl” — “you damned fool.”

Sotheby’s charges 20 percent commission for the first $100,000 of each sale, and 12 percent on higher sales. The company increased the fee, known as a buyer’s premium, by two percentage points in January.

The symphony is performed by a full orchestra and choir. Beethoven had been deaf for some eight years by the time he completed it and, while the symphony was critically acclaimed, it didn’t resolve his financial woes. 1

Though commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society in London, Beethoven dedicated the work to the King of Prussia, Frederick William III. It was first performed at the Imperial Court Theater in Vienna on May 7 1824.

Beethoven died in 1827 at the age of 57.

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Published in: on May 23, 2003 at 3:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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