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Lost Beethoven manuscript sold for 1.9 million dollars


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London (dpa) - A lost handwritten manuscript of one of Ludwig van Beethoven's most revolutionary works, which some experts believe could lead to a "complete reassessment" of his music, was sold at auction in London for 1.1 million pounds (1.9 million dollars) Thursday.

The working manuscript of Grosse Fuge in B flat major in the composer's version for piano four-hands, Op. 134, was snapped up by an anonymous buyer at Sotheby's auctioneers in London.

It was discovered in the Palmer Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by an employee conducting an inventory four months ago.

The 80-page manuscript is Beethoven's only piano version of a major work and is one of his few compositions for piano duet.

Stephen Roe, head of Sotheby's manuscript department, said its rediscovery would allow a "complete reassessment of Beethoven's music."

"This is an amazing find. 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."

Beethoven (1770-1827) composed the original Grosse Fuge as the finale for the String Quartet in B flat major, Op. 130, begun in May 1825.

Music experts said it has an extraordinarily modern sound and was notoriously difficult for performers and listeners alike when it was first played in 1826.

Lost for more than a century, the manuscript is an important source completely unknown to 20th century and earlier Beethoven scholars.

It is written in brown and black ink, sometimes over pencil, and includes later annotations in pencil and red crayon, some added as proof corrections, on ten-stave paper. The staves frequently extended into the margins by the composer.

Written on various paper types, the manuscript shows the extent of Beethoven's working and reworking and includes deletions, corrections, deep erasures, smudged alterations and several pages pasted over the original.

Roe said: "It is a completely lost autograph of a major work and such a visually exciting and extraordinary manuscript."

Wallace Charles Smith, president of Palmer Theological Seminary, said: "I was both thrilled and overjoyed when I heard about the rediscovery of this wonderful manuscript, a true original by an artist for the ages."

Copyright 2005 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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