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NEW YORK, Oct 13 (AFP) - A handwritten, working manuscript of one of Beethoven's most revolutionary works had been rediscovered after 115 years by a librarian in Pennsylvania, triggering fevered excitement among music historians.
Sotheby's auction house, which will offer "Grosse Fuge" for sale in London in December, said Thursday that the 80-page score was "the longest and most important manuscript to have appeared on the market in living memory."
Sotheby's experts have put an estimate on the lot of between 1.7 million and 2.6 million dollars.
"This is an amazing find," said Stephen Roe, Head of Sotheby's Manuscript Department.
"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," Roe said.
"Its rediscovery will allow a complete reassessment of this extraordinary music," he added.
The manuscript was uncovered in July by Heather Carbo, a librarian who was nearing the end of a huge inventory project in the archives of a theological seminary in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
Carbo found the score in the very last cabinet she inspected in the basement of the library.
"It was just sitting on that shelf. I was in a state of shock," Carbo told the New York Times.
Written in brown and black ink, sometimes over pencil and with later annotations in red crayon, the manuscript shows the extent of Beethoven's working and reworking with some corrections so deep that the paper is rubbed right through.
"The passion and struggle of Beethoven's working can be seen graphically," Sotheby's said, highlighting how the notes were written larger as the music intensified.
"What this document gives us is rare insight into the imponderable process of decision making by which this most complex of quartet movements is made over into a work for piano four-hands," said Richard Kramer, a musicologist at the University of New York.
Among Beethoven's last works from the period when he was deaf, "Grosse Fuge" was originally composed as the finale for a string quartet. The rediscovered manuscript is a transcribed version of the same piece for a piano duet.
The manuscript was last seen at an 1890 auction in Berlin. The buyer was believed to have been William Howard Doane, a Cincinnati, Ohio, industrialist who loved composing hymns.
In 1952, Doane's daughter made a gift to the Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia to establish a chapel.
The gift included music manuscripts including Mozart's Fantasia in C minor and Sonata in C minor, a major find 15 years later which together with other manuscripts fetched 1.7 million dollars.
The manuscript was put on display at the seminary Thursday for just one afternoon.
It was then scheduled to be exhibited at Sotheby's showrooms in New York and London before the auction on December 1.
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