There was a new auction record for a musical manuscript when the complete manuscript of Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony (the “Resurrection”) sold for £4,546,250 at Sotheby’s in London today. This monument of musical history, spanning 232 pages and written in the composer’s distinctive hand throughout, ranks as the most significant music manuscript ever to be offered at auction. It remains completely unaltered, untrimmed and unbound – including deletions, alterations and annotations, many in vivid blue crayon. The work retains the form in which Mahler left it, reflecting and revealing the compositional process for the work.
The dramatic manuscript is made all the more noteworthy by its remarkable provenance, coming to auction from the estate of the American economist and businessman, Gilbert Kaplan (1941-2016), who, having become infatuated with Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 upon seeing the piece performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1965, dedicated his life to realising his dream of conducting the piece with the world’s greatest orchestras.
*The only comparable autograph music manuscripts of major symphonic works to have been sold at auction are the celebrated manuscript of nine Mozart symphonies (which achieved £2.5 million at Sotheby’s in London in 1987) and the manuscript of Robert Schumann’s Second Symphony (which sold for £1.5 million at Sotheby’s in London in 1994).