Collecting: Classic chance for those who know the score
Sunday 02 May 2004
There are few areas of collecting where a piece of paper can be worth more than £1m, but music manuscripts is one of them.
There are few areas of collecting where a piece of paper can be worth more than £1m, but music manuscripts is one of them.
"I've seen prices for music take a lunge forward in the past six years," says Stephen Roe, head of the manuscripts department at auction house Sotheby's. "A few great things have come on the market, and the prices they've achieved have attracted more. It's exciting because there are still some great works that can be bought - unlike literature where you're unlikely now to pick up something like an original Dickens."
"Great things" is no exaggeration. Last year the manuscript of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony sold at auction for £2.1m, and in 2002 the sketch leaf for the same symphony - a mere piece of paper - sold for £1.3m.
As with most areas of collecting, music manuscripts increase in value if they are in good condition, are by a famous composer and, best of all, are either entirely hand-notated by the composer or autographed by him. Naturally, the better-known and more distinguished the composer, the higher the value. Sometimes the look of the piece can help too. At Sotheby's next auction, to be held on 21 May, Stravinsky's original score of "Petrushka" will be on sale for an estimated £1.5m-£2m. The composer's neat and artistic notation makes this a particularly attractive piece, quite apart from being a major work.
Also featuring at this auction is a restituted Mahler manu- script (estimated price £400,000-£600,000) with a tragic tale behind it. It is a song called "Ich bin der Welt" and was presented to the composer's friend and fellow Jew, Guido Adler, in 1905. After Adler died, his daughter Melanie tried to preserve his library but was murdered by the Nazis.
"This is probably the last major Mahler score that will come on to the market," says Mr Roe. "These things are going to be rarer as time goes on. It is interesting which composers stand the test of time. Mahler was once considered a minor composer but has now become a major one."
It is heartening for those who don't have a spare few hundred thousand pounds to invest to know that composers and songwriters considered minor today could be rather more important later on. "Music manu- scripts are more specialist than books because while most people can read, not that many can read music," says artist and piano teacher Paul Douglas, who collects 19th- and 20th-century light music. "It makes it easier to pick up bargains in charity shops because quite often they don't know what they've got. Recently one woman found an Elgar score, with his own handwritten notations, selling in an Oxfam shop in London for £1. It sold at auction for thousands."
Mr Douglas, like many similar collectors, buys old manuscripts that are now out of print. He has found a number of reasonably valuable scores by rummaging in charity and second-hand shops. "I picked up a William Lovelock piano score for £1 once. He's not very well known but I know it's worth quite a bit more." He also looks for pieces by Percy Grainger, Constant Lambert and Vaughan Williams. "The quality of the printing from the 1930s to 1950s is much better than it is now. The front covers are also very attractive."
Smaller collectors like Mr Douglas tend to focus on one era or one composer. Members of the Billy Mayerl Society, for example, collect everything the jazz pianist ever wrote, as well as other syncopated, ragtime and generally light music written between 1915 and 1950. Even in this relatively unknown area, prices have gone up recently, says the society's secretary, Mike Lorenzini. "Billy published over 300 originals and 120 songs. Seven or eight years ago you could pick up one of his pieces in a junk shop for £1 or so; now we have to put down £25 to £30 a go."
You can find items like these on auction website Ebay now, or in catalogues from music dealers across the country. Travis & Emery in London produces a quarterly catalogue of manu- scripts and printed music ranging in price from just under £1,000 to as little as £12.50.
Helen Hardy from Travis & Emery says there is currently a great deal of interest in English music from the 1930s, and particularly late Victorian copies. "Something by Sullivan on his own, without Gilbert, is very sought-after, as are works by Charles Parry and Charles Stanford. You might pay around £125 for the printed score of one of their symphonies. As with books, there's also a lot of interest in first printed editions of major works from the 1800s, such as those by Mozart and Beethoven."
For the newer collector looking to invest in good music, Mr Roe advises: "Buy what you're interested in, look at what's out there and get the best quality you can afford." Works by composers you consider to be good or potentially great are likely to stand the test of time and appreciate later on, even if no one else has heard of them now.
They may not fetch millions in a decade's time but you could still be pleasantly surprised by their value.
Anything from £1 for a charity shop "find" to £2.5m or more for a handwritten composition from a master musician.
Billy Mayerl Society: Shellwood, St Leonards Road, Thames Ditton, Surrey KT7 0RN, tel: 020 8224 1521.
Travis & Emery: 17 Cecil Court, London WC2N 4EZ, tel: 020 7240 2129.
* 21 May: Music sale at Sotheby's, London.
- 1 Should Apple buy Greece?
- 2 Michael Douglas regrets 'embarrassing' Catherine Zeta-Jones with oral sex comments
- 3 Drummer Lee Rigby's family reject 'extremist' groups using Woolwich murder for political gain
- 4 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 5 Fox News anchor asks 'what's to prevent' three people from marrying after same-sex marriage legalised
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Extend Right To Buy to tenants of private landlords, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn says
David Cameron struck double blow in his hopes to win Britain a new EU deal
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
iJobs Money & Business
£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This extremely successful and well-established...
Competitive with monthly bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced FX...
Competitive (Freelance) : Guru Careers: An Investment Writer / Stock Picker is...
Day In a Page
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.
Spanning three storeys, this late-Victorian five-bedroom farmhouse is a spacious family home with a modern interior and B&B potential.
With an original church arch, this triplex one-bedroom church conversion has a light, spacious, feel and comes with a secure off-street parking space.
This recently-refurbished three-bedroom home has bi-folding doors that lead out to a decked seating area - ideal for alfresco dining this summer.
Well-located for coastal walks and popular restaurants, this detached four-bedroom home offers views over farmland, to the Solent, the Purbecks and Bournemouth.
If you love high ceilings, school conversions like this one are bang on the money. This two-bedroom flat is minutes from Burgess Park and the foodie haven at Borough Market.
Set within a church conversion in Bermondsey, this two-bedroom maisonette combines existing features, such as original arches and brickwork, with a contemporary finish.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.