Auctions | April 21, 2014

Rachmaninov Autograph Manuscript Expected to Reach $1.5-2.5 Million at Sotheby’s


Sotheby’s is delighted to announce the London sale of the only surviving autograph manuscript for Sergei Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony in E Minor, OP.27 on 20th May 2014 (est. £1,000,000-1,500,000). Presumed lost since soon after the symphony’s premiere in St Petersburg in 1908, it was rediscovered nearly a century later in 2004 in the estate of a European private collector.

It is one of the few autograph manuscripts of a symphony, central to the international orchestral repertory, remaining in private hands. In its 320 pages, it contains a wealth of new information, revealing Rachmaninov’s compositional processes when he was at the height of his powers, in one of his greatest works. There is even new unpublished material, unknown to Rachmaninov scholars and absent in any edition of the symphony. It is the only surviving manuscript providing any insight into the genesis and evolution of this celebrated work. No early sources, whether sketches, short-score drafts, or copyists’ manuscripts have survived: this seems to be the sole primary source.

The Symphony

The Second is widely acknowledged as Rachmaninov’s greatest Symphony. Following firmly in the symphonic tradition of Tchaikovsky, it is a large, lyrical and open-hearted work with soaring Romantic themes and lush orchestration, which continues to be performed and recorded today, over a century after its premiere.

Composed in Dresden, where Rachmaninov lived from 1906-1909, it was created especially for a series of concerts run by his cousin Alexander Siloti. After Rachmaninov conducted the first performances in St. Petersburg on January 26th 1908 and in Moscow a few days later on February 2nd, it seems highly likely that he revised the orchestration, making this score the last remaining evidence of Rachmaninov’s original vision, hitherto lost to history and now rediscovered.

*The last comparable sale took place in December 1994 when Robert Schumann’s autograph manuscript for Symphony No 2 in C major, Op.61 sold for £1.48 million at Sotheby’s.

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Estimates do not include buyer’s premium and prices achieved include the hammer price plus buyer’s premium.

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