An original manuscript of a movement from one of Ludwig van Beethoven’s last compositions sold today (Dec. 5) in London for more than $2 million. The manuscript from the scherzo movement of his Opus 127 string quartet was purchased by a private buyer who bid by telephone and asked not to be identified, Sotheby’s auction house said.
Beethoven composed the quartet in the last three years of his life, after he had finished the epic Ninth Symphony. Sotheby’s said single pages written by Beethoven appear fairly often at auction, but that no manuscript of this size had been offered for more than a decade.
The manuscript sold for $2.03 million. Before the sale, the auction house suggested the price might go as high as $2.58 million.
In May, Sotheby’s auctioned Beethoven’s final manuscript of the Ninth Symphony for $3.47 million. The manuscript was done by a copyist, though it included revisions and a few insults addressed to the copyist in Beethoven’s hand.
The scherzo manuscript of the quartet is clearly a working document, with smudges and late alterations added. Prince Galitzin of Russia, who played cello, commissioned Beethoven to write three quartets in 1822, but the composer was inspired to produce five.
Opus 127, in E flat, was the first of the group, composed in 1824-25. It also was the only one that Galitzin paid for — Beethoven never got the payment for the others. After Beethoven died in 1827, movements from the original score of the quartet were given to various people.
The scherzo was once owned by the mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot (1821-1910), who was also a composer, and her stamp is on the first and last leaves of the manuscript, Sotheby’s said.
The Swedish collector Rudolf Nydahl bought it from a dealer in Paris in 1925. After he died in 1973, the Nydahl collection went to the Stiftelsen Musikkulterens Framjaende (the Foundation for the Advancement of Music Culture) in Stockholm.
Also Friday, a volume of music for lute and soprano printed in the early 16th century by Ottaviano Petrucci sold to a private bidder for $204,000 — a record for a piece of printed music, the auctioneer said.
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