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ThrowbackThursday: Original Beethoven manuscript found at The Palmer

In July 2005, when The Palmer was still The Palmer Theological Seminary, an 80-page Beethoven manuscript was discovered in the library archives. The manuscript was authenticated by Dr. Jeffrey Kallberg at the University of Pennsylvania and by Dr. Stephen Roe, head of Sotheby’s Manuscript Department, and is a rare piano transcription by Beethoven of one of his own works, and the only complete manuscript source for the piano version of the “Grosse Fuge.” Lost for over 100 years, this discovery may be one of the most important musicological finds in recent years. “What this document gives us is rare insight into the imponderable process of decision making,” wrote Richard Kramer, a musicologist at the City University of New York, in a profile in the NYT, “by which this most complex of quartet movements is made over into a work for piano four-hands.”

The Beethoven manuscript was auctioned by Sotheby’s in London on December 1, 2005 for US$1.72 million to an anonymous bidder later revealed to be Bruce Kovner.