Rare Beethoven letter may fetch $80,000

A rare handwritten letter from composer Ludwig van Beethoven has surfaced at auction at RRAuction in Amherst, N.H.

The letter was written to Beethoven’s good friend, composer and publisher Tobias Haslinger. Addressing Haslinger as “the best and brightest aide-de-camp,” Beethoven asks, “whether you could come and see me tomorrow morning concerning the correction of the symphony. They [the corrections] should be done by then and it is necessary to discuss certain things as there are still several inconsistencies. So I expect you here since I will not be able to come to you….”

Beethoven expert Professor Barry Cooper of the University of Manchester in the UK pointed out the significance of the rare document: “Correcting proofs was a task Beethoven always found irksome, and occasionally he overlooked mistakes. Here, however, he had spotted several blunders, and was summoning Haslinger to discuss them.” Professor Cooper added, “the letter was written at a time when Beethoven was too unwell to compose much music at all.”

The work to which Beethoven refers was evidently the Eighth Symphony, composed in 1812 and first performed in 1814. The letter itself probably dates to January 1817, at a time when Haslinger assisted Beethoven in preparing the Eighth Symphony for publication.

John Reznikoff of University Archives in Westport, Connecticut believes the Beethoven document will exceed the pre-auction estimate of $20,000. “We are lucky to have this offered in the United States as most Beethoven items never leave Europe. The last comparable item fetched nearly $80,000.”

The letter was previously purchased at the Berlin auction house Meyer & Ernst in October 1933 and remained in a private collection for nearly seven decades. RRAuction is the first auction house in the United States to offer the item.

Other items of particular interest among the more than 1,500 lots to be offered in the auction include a program from a 1908 aeronautical dinner signed by Wilbur Wright; a remarkable oversized photo inscribed by Marilyn Monroe to her The Prince and the Showgirl screenwriter, Terence Rattigan; and a rare presidential-date document signed by James Garfield.

The auction ends on March 11. For information, visit the RRAuction web site at www.rrauction.com, or contact Elizebeth Otto at elizebeth@rrauction.com.

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