The usual end-of-year music sale is still to come, on November 28.
The scores in this single-owner collection were led at £180,000 by the dedication copy of Johannes Brahms’ 1864 setting for contralto voice, viola and piano of Emanuel Geibel’s version of a poem by Lope de Vega, Geistiches Wiegenlied.
Not published for another 20 years, it had been composed for the baptism of the son of Brahms’ close friends, the violinist Joseph Joachim and his wife, the singer Amalie Schneeweiss.
This original autograph version, said Sotheby’s, diverges significantly from that which was eventually published, along with a setting of Ruckert’s poem Gestillte Sensucht for the same voice and instruments.
Brahms’ relationship with Robert and Clara Schumann is better known, but his three violin sonatas, his violin concerto and double concerto were all written with Joachim in mind.
Sold at £90,000, again a little short of the low estimate, was a previously unknown early draft of the opening seven bars of Chopin’s Étude Op.25, No.2 in A-flat major.
The leaf is signed and simply dated April 28, as if for a leaf that could be inserted in a friend’s autograph album.
Yet another previously unrecorded manuscript, a sketchleaf for one of Robert Schumann’s major Goethe settings, comprising drafts for Nur wer die Sehnsucht, realised £38,000.
Addressed to a fellow composer, Louis Spohr, a Schumann letter of 1842 that includes a discussion, complete with musical examples, of his ‘Spring’ Symphony No.1 sold for £14,000.
Dated 1839 but ‘lost’ for 80 years, a signed working manuscript by Felix Mendelssohn for his song Morgenguss was another of the sale’s many discoveries. A setting of a poem by Heine, it made £32,000.
Bid to £90,000 was a rare and unrecorded two-page working manuscript for the ‘Conspiracy’ scene from Verdi’s opera Ernani that probably dates from 1844 – but the sale’s big Verdi lot failed to get away.
A series of 36 largely unpublished and unrecorded letters sent to the librettist Salvadore Cammarano in the years 1841-51 was categorised by Sotheby’s as a monumental discovery – one that would “change our knowledge of Verdi’s operas”.
Ten pages of the catalogue were devoted to a detailed description of the lot’s content, but to no avail. The archive was left unsold on an estimate of £250,000-300,000.
Among other letters, one of 1776 in which Christoph Willibald Gluck discusses two of his principal operatic works, Alceste and Armide, was sold at £18,000, and another in Wagner’s hand, dated 1861, reached £13,000.
Relating to a projected Vienna performance of Tristan und Isolde, the latter mentions the need for a bass clarinet in A, adding a simple sketch and providing an eight-bar example of the natural notes it has to play.
A November 7 autographs sale held by Swann (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) included a music collection formed by a composer of many hugely popular songs, Jimmy Van Heusen (1913-90) and donated to his old high school, Cazenova College (NY), the consignors.
A working draft for the piano part of Van Heusen’s Call me Irresponsible made £7500 (£5770), while draught vocal scores for Swinging on a Star and Love and Marriage sold at $5600 (£4310) and $5400 (£4155).
The bulk of the collection, however, featured the music of earlier ages and was led at $22,000 (£16,925) by a signed, nine-bar musical quotation from Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for String Orchestra in C Major (Op.48) dated London, 1888.
Dating from the same year, three bars of ‘Gaudeamus Igitur’ from Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture (Op.80), plus accompanying note, sold at $12,000 (£9230).
Letters in the hands of Chopin and Mendelssohn sold at $15,600 (£12,000) and $17,000 (£13,075) respectively.
The latter, addressed in 1834 to the philologist Adolf Friedrich Stenzler, recalls their last meeting on London’s Blackfriar’s Bridge but, more significantly, adds at the end a 28-bar, fair copy of his May Song (Op.34 No.1).