Music to Our Ears: Classical Musician Autographs at Swann Nov. 26

Swann Galleries’ November 26 auction of Autographs offers an exceptional collection of musician autographs – the likes of which are rarely seen at auction. The top estimate in the sale is for an Autograph Musical Manuscript by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, bars 57 – 70 of the sixth movement of his Serenade in D major, Vienna, July-August 1773 – when the prodigy was 17 years old.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Bars 52-70 of Serenade in D Major, written in Mozart’s own hand. Estimate $120,000 to $180,000.

There is a fragment of an unsigned Autograph Manuscript by Ludwig van Beethoven that includes a reference to composer and pianist Carl Czerny ($8,000 to $12,000); a letter from Gustav Mahler early in his career to a reviewer, thanking him for the sympathetic response to his music after his debut in Berlin and recounting the repeated rejections and misunderstandings he had endured prior, Hamburg, 30 March 1895 ($8,000 to $12,000); an Autograph Letter Signed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Leipzig, 1 March 1889, which contains a reference to an “engrossing task” that might very well be work on his Symphony No. 5 ($5,000 to $7,500); and an Autograph Letter Signed from Richard Wagner, Zurich, 16 March 1858, requesting that the recipient convey his greetings to Franz Liszt and asking after him ($5,000 to $7,500).

Ludwig van Beethoven
One side of an Autograph Manuscript fragment written by Ludwig van Beethoven.

There are also items from Georges Bizet, Johannes Brahms, Antonín Dvorák, Edvard Gieg, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Sergey Prokofiev, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Dmitri Shostakovich, Richard Strauss, Giuseppe Verdi and many others.

Star Wars fanatics may take particular delight in one item: an autographed musical quotation of that film’s main theme, written on a 3×5 card by John Williams, and valued at just $100 to $200. 

For more on the musical autographs in our sale, check out this article on the website for WQXR, New York’s classical music radio station.