Manuscript by Beethoven Sold for $892,000

From Associated Press

A music manuscript by Ludwig van Beethoven and a letter from him to a woman friend broke world auction records for the composer today, Sotheby’s auction house said.

Otto Haas, a London dealer, paid $892,000 for the 16-page first movement of the Sonata for Violoncello and Piano in A Major, a celebrated piece of chamber music.

Beethoven wrote it in brown crayon and black ink between 1807 and 1808, saying it was composed “amid tears and sorrow.”

Scholars have been unable to determine what he meant by the remark.


The previous highest auction price for a Beethoven music manuscript was $168,000 paid in London in May, 1988, for his Ninth Symphony.

An anonymous buyer paid $159,800 for a letter of 1811 to Bettina Brentano, a poet and writer, containing references to two of the greatest German literary figures, Friedrich von Schiller and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

In the letter, Beethoven mentions Antonie von Brentano, the recipient’s sister-in-law, who is believed by some historians to have been the “immortal beloved” to whom the composer referred in a letter found unsent after his death in 1827.

In May, 1985, $67,600 was paid in London for a letter by the composer to Antonie von Brentano, the previous highest price for a Beethoven letter.

The manuscript and letter belonged to Felix Salzer, who taught music theory at the graduate school of the City University of New York. He died in 1986, and his collection was sold by his collaborator and widow, Hedwig.