'Ninth Symphony' manuscript sells for record £2.1m

Duncan Begg
Friday 23 May 2003 00:00 BST

The working manuscript for Beethoven's Ninth Symphony fetched £2.1m at auction yesterday.

Sotheby's had estimated that the manuscript - containing the composer's handwritten revisions and described as one of the most important musical works to go under the hammer - would be sold for between £2m and £3m.

But the price fell short of the previous record for a manuscript - the £2,585,000 paid in May 1987 for nine complete symphonies by Mozart. The price was a record for a Beethoven manuscript, Sotheby's said. It was bought by a private collector.

Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth was completed in 1824, seven years after the composer received an invitation to write a new symphony. Dr Stephen Roe, head of Sotheby's manuscripts department, said: "It is an incomparable manuscript of an incomparable work, one of the highest achievements of man, ranking alongside Shakespeare's Hamlet and King Lear."

The 575-page document was prepared for Beethoven by two copyists. It is marked throughout with scribbles and alterations, showing how it reached its final form.

The document includes the remark "Du verfluchter kerl" (you damned fool), aimed at the copyist who appeared to have been struggling with the composer's handwriting.

The Ninth Symphony has become a classical favourite and in the last movement is teamed with the words from Friedrich Schiller's "Ode To Joy". It is also the anthem of the European Union.

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