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Sotheby’s to sell Mahler’s original Second Symphony manuscript for $4.5 million

Sotheby’s has announced it will offer the original handwritten musical manuscript for Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony at auction in London later this year.
Known as the ‘Resurrection Symphony’, the piece is regarded as one of the "grandest, longest, and yet most accessible" of Mahler’s works.

The epic symphony was written for a 90-piece orchestra with soprano and alto soloists, chorus and organ, and was first performed in Berlin in 1895.

Mahler’s handwritten manuscript features the entire composition including deletions, alterations and annotations.

"No complete symphony by Mahler, written in the composer’s own hand, has ever been offered at auction, and probably none will be offered again," said Simon Maguire, Sotheby’s Senior Specialist for Books & Manuscripts. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a manuscript of truly outstanding historical importance."

The remarkable manuscript will be offered from the estate of an equally remarkable man – Gilbert Kaplan, the businessman whose life was changed forever by a performance of the symphony at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1965

"Zeus threw the bolt of lightning. I walked out of that hall a different person," said Kaplan. Having been transformed, he then set out to learn how to conduct the piece, despite having had no previous musical training of any kind.

He dedicated the rest of his life to the task, enlisting the help of some of the world’s greatest conductors, and over the next three decades achieved his dream a hundred times over, conducting the symphony for audiences around the world.

As part of his obsession, Kaplan sought Mahler’s original manuscript, and acquired it in 1984 from the estate of conductor Willem Mengelberg, to whom the composer’s widow Alma Mahler had gifted it back 1920.

Having never appeared for sale on the open market, the symphony has been described as "the most significant music manuscript ever to be offered at auction", and is expected to sell for in excess of £3.5 million ($4.5 million).

The current world record price for an original musical manuscript was set almost 30 years ago, when a 508-page manuscript featuring nine Mozart original symphonies sold at Sotheby’s in 1987 for $4.34 million.

The Sotheby’s auction takes place in London on November 29.

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