Lot 36
  • 36

Mahler, Gustav

3,500,000 - 4,500,000 GBP
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  • Mahler, Gustav
  • The autograph manuscript of the Second Symphony ("the Resurrection"), the complete work in five movements
  • ink on paper
A monumental and dramatic manuscript written throughout in the composer's characteristic bold musical script, mainly in intense black ink, with some parts in brown or violet ink (the final seven pages in violet ink), on up to twenty-eight staves per page, a working manuscript in places, with inserted leaves, corrections and deletions, including an important pencil sketch for the opening of the third movement, together with many revisions and additions to the orchestration written in blue crayon in the first three movements and in violet ink in the final movement, inscribed and dated by the composer at the end of first and last movements respectively: "Sonntag 29. April [18]94 renovatum" & "Beendigt am Dienstag, den 18. Dezember 1894 zu Hamburg".

232 pages, large folio (c.35 x 27cm), 24- & 28-stave papers, without a title page, unbound bifolios, each movement foliated separately by the composer (the fourth paginated in another hand), retaining the original composing structure, including inserted leaves and bifolios, traces of earlier stitching to the first three movements, the final two movements unstitched, annotations in pencil to the lower margins by Mahler’s copyists, modern cloth-covered folding box, gilt lettering labels, mainly Hamburg (some parts possibly also at Steinbach am Attersee), April to December 1894, a few creases to margins

I. "Maestoso. Mit durchaus ernstem und feierlichem Ausdruck", comprising 15 bifolios, with the remains of stitching, a total of 58 pages.

II. "Andante con moto", comprising 8 bifolios, the remains of stitching, a total of 30 pages.

III. [Scherzo], comprising 14 bifolios, one unnumbered, the remains of stitching, a total of 53 pages.

IV. "Nro 4. 'Urlicht'. Sehr feierlich, aber schlicht", comprising two unstitched bifolios, a total of 8 pages.

V. "Im Tempo des Scherzos. Wild herausfahrend!", comprising 21 unstitched bifolios, a total of 83 pages.


THIS MANUSCRIPT HAS AN IMPECCABLE PROVENANCE. Mahler retained it during his lifetime and in 1920 it was given by his widow, Alma Mahler, to his friend the conductor Willem Mengelberg on the occasion of the first Mahler Festival in Amsterdam.  It passed to the Mengelberg Foundation after the conductor’s death in 1951, and was put on deposit at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague from 1982.    Finally, the financial publisher and great Mahler enthusiast Gilbert Kaplan acquired the manuscript from the Foundation in 1984, since when it has been on deposit at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York.  This manuscript has never been offered or sold on the open market until today.


Condition is described in the main body of the cataloguing, where appropriate
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

THIS IS THE GREATEST AUTOGRAPH MUSIC MANUSCRIPT TO BE OFFERED AT AUCTION FOR NEARLY THIRTY YEARS.   The only comparable autographs are those of the nine Mozart symphonies (Sotheby’s London, 22 May 1987, lot 457) and Schumann’s Second Symphony (Sotheby’s London, 1 December 1994, lot 317).

NO AUTOGRAPH OF A COMPLETE SYMPHONY BY MAHLER HAS APPEARED AT AUCTION FOR NEARLY SIXTY YEARS.  Indeed, since Sotheby’s sold Mahler’s First Symphony in 1959, no autograph of a complete symphony by any of the great late Romantic composers--Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner or Mahler--has been sold at auction; this is a unique opportunity to acquire such a manuscript.

MAHLER’S MONUMENTAL SECOND SYMPHONY WAS THE GRANDEST OF ALL NINETEENTH-CENTURY SYMPHONIES. With the vast forces and great length (around an hour and a half), it easily surpassed its choral predecessors by Beethoven, Berlioz and Liszt in its enormous range and conception.  It is a standard work in the concert repertory, performed and recorded by all the great conductors.  Mahler demands an orchestra of over one hundred players, comprising four or five each of the woodwind instruments (including piccolos, E-flat clarinets and contrabassoon), ten trumpets, ten French horns, four trombones and tuba, two harps, organ, an extensive battery of percussion and the largest possible contingent of strings.   

THIS IS THE ONLY AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT OF THE COMPLETE  SYMPHONY:  There are early drafts of individual movements now dispersed in Basel, Yale, New York and London, together with a fair number of sketch-leaves in Vienna and elsewhere.   There is no other autograph score of the great Finale to Mahler’s symphony, its crowning glory.  Mahler began this as a fair copy of his complete symphony, but subsequently revised the manuscript making important changes to the orchestration in blue crayon and in violet ink, introducing new instruments such as the E-flat clarinet, extra timpani and harp parts.  These alterations are particularly extensive in the third and fifth movements.  Mahler also revises the opening of the third movement; there is a pencil sketch in his hand, where the manuscript differs markedly from his final version.

This manuscript is particularly important for being unaltered, untrimmed and unbound.  It retains its original physical form, reflecting and revealing how Mahler created the final musical structure of his work.  Mahler wrote the manuscript on a series of numbered bifolios (sheets folded to form four pages each), and the insertion and extraction of leaves into this sequence provides crucial evidence of how Mahler brought his masterpiece to its final form.  Other manuscripts of his symphonies now in libraries are mostly bound, sometimes with the leaves separated and mounted on guards, so that such evidence has been irretrievably lost.   Although the facsimile that Gilbert Kaplan published reproduces the colours of the manuscript faithfully, it does not show anything of this physical structure.  


MAHLER’S “RESURRECTION” SYMPHONY DEALS WITH MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATH; IN DOING SO, IT REPRESENTS THE CULMINATION OF THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY SYMPHONY.  It is his most accessible and arguably his greatest early treatment of such existential issues and this is why it has always been among his most popular works.  Mahler was following a great tradition, building on the expansion of the form achieved by Beethoven in his Ninth; that work also concluded with a great choral finale, expressing Schiller’s humanist Ode to Joy, and linking all the movements. These innovations were developed by Berlioz and Liszt to express mortal, supernatural, diabolic and mystical concepts.  Mahler was fully aware that this continual development and expansion of the symphony went hand in hand with the desire to express grander and more profound concepts and "newer elements of feeling".  He wrote in Hamburg in 1893 that "composers began to include ever deeper and more complex sides of their emotional lives in the realm of their creative work...from [Beethoven] on not just the fundamental shades of the mood--thus e.g. sheer joyfulness or sadness etc.--but also the transition from one mood to another--conflicts--Nature and her impact upon us--humour, and poetic ideas--were the objects of musical emulation…”.  All aspects of metaphysics, religious problems and existentialism fascinated Mahler, and he continually engrossed himself in philosophical problems and reflected them through music.

At this time Mahler was better known as a conductor than as a composer, and specifically an opera conductor.  Inevitably, his daily diet was not Berlioz and Liszt, but Weber’s Der Freischütz, Beethoven’s Fidelio,  Mozart’s Don Giovanni & Die Zauberflöte, Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, Bizet’s Carmen, Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera and, increasingly from 1885 on, the operas of Wagner.  His repertoire as a conductor included well over one hundred operas, many staged in several different productions.    

Not surprisingly, Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony is a vividly dramatic work.  It portrays the triumph of the human spirit in overcoming death, whose depiction in the first movement is as dramatic and terrifying as in Verdi’s Requiem.  In the long first movement, Mahler presents us with the relentless struggle with death, firmly bound in the fateful key of C minor.  The even-more-ambitious Finale, lasting over half an hour, contains the voice crying in the wilderness, the Last Trump, the Resurrection and all the struggle that leads up to it.  Mahler’s fourteen-year experience of conducting operas informed his dramatic presentation, not least in his striking use of off-stage brass and percussion.   

Mahler originally composed the first movement in August and September 1888, but could not continue the symphony; he later retitled his fair copy 'Todtenfeier' (Funeral rites). He took the work up again in July 1893, writing the second, third and fourth movements. Only in April 1894 did Mahler return to assembling these disparate movements into a coherent whole, by revising the first movement and composing his great Finale. The inspiration came to him on 29 March 1894, when he attended the memorial service of the great pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow (1830-1894) in Hamburg. Mahler explained to Arthur Seidl that it was only then that he fixed on the conclusion that would bind his great work together: “I had long contemplated bringing in the choir in the last movement, and only the fear that it would be taken as a superficial imitation of Beethoven made me hesitate again and again. Then Bülow died and I went to the memorial service [Todtenfeier] ...the choir, up in the organ loft, intoned Klopstock’s Resurrection chorale. It flashed on me like lightening, and everything became plain and clear in my mind! It was the flash that all creative artists wait for, ‘conception by the Holy Ghost’! What I experienced had now to be expressed in sound”.

Mahler did on three occasions write a descriptive programme about the symphony: In a letter of 1896, Mahler wrote that “...The first movement depicts the titanic struggles of a mighty being still caught in the toils of this world; grappling with life and with the fate to which he must succumb--and his death.  The second and third movements, Andante and Scherzo, are episodes from the life of the fallen hero...While the first three movements are narrative in character, in the last movement everything is immediate action. It begins with the death-shriek [reprised from near the end] of the Scherzo. And now the resolution of the terrible problem of life--redemption. At first, we see it in the form created by faith and the Church…It is the day of the Last Judgement...the earth trembles. Just listen to the drum-roll, and your hair will stand on end! The Last Trump sounds; the graves spring open, and all creation comes writhing out of the bowels of the earth, with wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Now they all come marching along in a mighty procession: beggars and rich men, common folk and kings...There now follows nothing of what had been expected: no Last Judgement, no souls saved and none damned; no just man, no evil-doer, no judge! Everything has ceased to be. And softly and simply there begins: “Aufersteh’n, ja aufersteh’n” [the Resurrection chorale: “Rise up again, yes rise up”]...“.

Please see the comprehensive description of this manuscript in the separate catalogue.   Sotheby's is happy to acknowledge the advice and assistance of Professors Stephen Hefling and Paul Banks.