The composer’s own mammoth copy of the Third Symphony was found in a private collection last week and placed for auction shortly after with an estimate of between £100,000 and £150,000.
Published by Weinberger of Vienna shortly after the first complete performance, the manuscript is somewhat unique in that it contains Mahler’s extensive alterations and markings made after the first public performances of the work.
The amendments are made directly onto the staves and in the margins and appear on over 60 per cent of the score’s pages. Sotheby’s noted before the sale that the alterations constitute the composer’s entire revision of the symphony’s orchestration.
One passage of 20 bars sees “Mahler transform the pages with new parts for oboes and clarinets in red ink, subsequently deleting these new parts in blue crayon with others for trumpets and timpani in red ink and blue crayon, then deleting entire staves for percussion in brown crayon”.
The work is thought to have been written between 1893 and 1896. It is the Austrian composers’ longest piece and is also the longest symphony in the standard repertoire, with a typical performance lasting around ninety to one hundred minutes.
Worldwide head of books and manuscripts at the auction house, Stephen Roe, described the score as “a magnificent new source for Mahler’s Third. It is a spectacular and beautiful score revealing the passion of Mahler’s creation and the exuberance of his musical thinking”.
Meanwhile, a signed Verdi extract and sheet music by child prodigy Mozart have also been offered for auction in recent weeks.