Beethoven Auction Report: (Stargardt/Erasmushaus, Basel, October 8, 1994; Hassfurther, Vienna, October 28, 1994; Sotheby's, London, December 1, 1994; Stargardt, Berlin, March 17, 1995; Sotheby's, London, May 18, 1994; Christie's, London, June 29, 1995)

Article excerpt

IRECORD HERE THE ACTIVITY OF THE LAST QUARTER OF 1994 AND THE FIRST HALF OF 1995 covering Beethoven and the European auction market. The venerable autograph firm of J.A. Stargardt, now operating again from Berlin, teamed up with Erasmushaus of Basel to hold a joint auction on October 8, 1994 in Basel. The catalog contained two Beethoven manuscripts. The first was a sixteen-line music sheet of Beethoven's hand-written annotations of passages taken from Carl Philip Emanuel Bach's Versuch über die wahre An das Clavier zu Spielen,which Beethoven had copied out in the summer of 1809 for his composition student Archduke Rudolph. The reserve price was 25,000 SF, but the wealth of content pushed the sale price to 40,000 SF plus the premium ($36,400). The other lot was an Einladung (printed invitation) to Beethoven's funeral. This is a fairly common item which every selfrespecting Beethoven collector should own (the Center owns one). The copy at auction cost its owner 1,500 SF, which is equivalent to $1,365.

On October 28 a gentleman in Vienna with the arresting name of Wolfdietrich Hassfurther held an auction which featured four sheets (eight pages) of contrapuntal studies which Beethoven prepared for his composition student Archduke Rudolph. The last page contains an important sentence in Beethoven's hands attesting to his interest in the church modes; the sentence is transcribed in the catalog as "In den alten Kirchentonarten ist die / Andacht göttlich rief ich dabey aus, / u. Gott laße mich es einmal darstellen" ("devotion is divine in the old church modest;] when realizing this, I called out and God grant me the ability to express it someday"). This offering came from the famous Louis Koch collection (no. 55 in the Kinsky "Katalog der Autographen-Sammlung Louis Koch") and carried an impressive estimate of 500,000-700,000 Austrian schillings. Since the schilling was worth about 9

Then on December 1 in London, Sotheby's held its semi-annual sale of musical material. This was a blockbuster sale, featuring the holograph copy of Schumann's second Symphony, Opus 61. It merited a separate small catalog, detailing its history and going into detail on each movement, amplified with many illustrations. The estimated price was also noteworthy - ±700,0000 -800,000. This did not deter an anxious buyer who took it home with a bid for £1,350,000! The dollar equivalent before any agent's commission amounted to $2,435,000, a number which needs no amplifying comment from this reporter. The Beethoven lots were not in this category, but counted twenty in number. They provided not only musical grist for this column, but a smaller blockbuster of its own for the Center.

When so many items by one composer are offered and a bidder is interested in more than one specific lot, the numerical sequence of the lots becomes a major factor in dictating bidding strategy. Since this applied precisely to the Center's bidding strategy, it is relevant to know the order of the bids. The first lot was one of the more attractive ones, being a first edition of Opus 1, the first three fortepiano trios composed by Beethoven. …