Autograph Music Manuscript - Ludwig van Beethoven

BEETHOVEN, Ludwig van (1770-1827). Autograph music manuscript, a sketchleaf for the string quartet in A minor, Op. 132, with notes on instrumentation relating to the Ninth Symphony, Op. 125, [?Vienna], [c. January 1825]. 

The verso [the musical sketches] in pencil only, the recto in pencil and pen, 2 pages (237 x 310mm), 16 staves ruled in pen per page, the watermark [a crowned fleur-de-lis] resembling nos 46-48 in Johnson, Tyson and Winter, four stitch-holes (the pencilled sketches on the verso strengthened in pencil by Anton Schindler, in some cases obscuring the original text, small loss to bottom margin, remnants of mounting glue at edges and recto, light surface soiling). 

Provenance: Authentication note on the verso in the hand of Beethoven’s secretary and biographer, Anton Schindler (1796-1864): ‘Autographe de Beethoven constaté par A. Schindler’, with his pen numbering 'No 2' on the recto.

Verso: pencil sketches on one, two, or three staves for Op. 132, in 3/4 and common time, more than 30 bars in total: perhaps for the fifth and first movements. Recto: autograph notes in pencil (lightly cancelled) headed 'Mainz', on 15 lines, listing instrumental parts for specific movements [of the 9th Symphony, Op. 125], (‘V[ioli]no 2do 1tes All[egr]o … Viola Finale ... Finale due Fag[otti] … Corni B Finale 3/4 … due Fl[auti] Finale adagio ma non tropp[o]’), followed by a brief musical phrase in pen marked 'non ligato'. 

Beethoven’s earliest sketches for one of the celebrated Late Quartets, with notes relating to the publication of one of his great works, the Ninth Symphony. The trio of quartets that Beethoven composed for Prince Nikolai Galitzin (1794-1866) – of which Op. 132 is the second, completed by the beginning of August 1825 – are recognised among the most important works in Western classical music. The String Quartet in A minor is an extraordinary, anguished work, with a theme of pain and its transcendence at its centre, which Beethoven – recently recovered from a bout of serious illness in the spring of 1825 – constructs around an unearthly 'Hymn of thanksgiving to the divinity from a convalescent, in the Lydian mode'. The present sketches, some of the very first for Op. 132 – perhaps from as early as January 1825 – were unused in the final work: the common time signature for certain of the sketches suggests they may have been for the opening movement, while those in 3/4 may have been for the closing rondo. The work was first performed on 6 November 1825 by the Schuppanzigh Quartet: when its dedicatee, Galitzin, heard of its first public performance, he wrote to Beethoven to offer 50 ducats for the manuscript (a sum notoriously left unpaid on Beethoven's death). The notes on the recto of the leaf relate to instrumentation for the Ninth Symphony, Beethoven's great work, which had delayed the composition of the first Galitzin quartet between 1823 and 1824 (he had accepted the Prince's offer to compose 'one, two or three new quartets’ at the beginning of 1823). Beethoven sent the work to Schott of Mainz for publication on 16 January 1825, and the present notes, listing parts including the second violin, viola, bassoons, horns and flutes, chiefly for the Finale, probably relate to this dispatch; the brief final musical phrase on the recto relates to a correction to the violin parts for the Ninth Symphony noted by Beethoven in a further letter to Schott on 26 January. 

The leaf was probably extracted by Anton Schindler from a sketchbook he retained after Beethoven's death – promised to him by the composer, according to his own account – then sold in 1846 to Königliche Bibliothek (today the Staatsbibliothek) in Berlin. The sketchbook, known as 'Autograph 11/2', now comprises 30 leaves only, devoted largely to sketches for the first and second Galitzin quartets, opp. 127 and 132: further leaves seem to have been extracted by Schindler and given away or sold to friends and collectors, often with his inscriptions. In their survey of the sketchbooks, Johnson, Tyson and Winter (The Beethoven Sketchbooks, 1985) note a telling break in continuity in Autograph 11/2 as Beethoven moves from the finale of op. 127 to the first movement of op. 132: they list a number of leaves likely extracted at this point, and also allow for the discovery of further leaves from the notebook, which will likely be traceable to Schindler and show stitch-holes consistent with the pattern of either seven or four stitch-holes present in the existing leaves. A leaf numbered 'No 3' in Schindler's hand, and bearing sketches for Op. 132, is at the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn (HCB Mh 98): a sister-leaf to Mh 99, from the same collection, which is assumed to come from Autograph 11/2. For Schindler’s overwriting to the recto, see Sieghard Brandenburg, ‘Die Quellen von Beethovens Quartett op. 127’, Beethoven-Jahrbuch 10 (Bonn: Beethovenhaus, 1983), pp.221–75. Not in Schmidt

Christie's is grateful to Professor Barry Cooper for his advice on the present lot.


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