Mahler’s 2nd symphony is about to become music’s most expensive manuscript

Mahler’s 2nd symphony is about to become music’s most expensive manuscript


norman lebrecht

July 08, 2016

Sotheby’s are offering for sale in November the manuscript of Gustav Mahler’s second symphony, following the death of Gilbert Kaplan at the start of the year.

The finished score only ever had three owners – Mahler himself, the conductor Willem Mengelberg and the financial publisher-turned-conductor Kaplan, who bought it from the Mengelberg Foundation in the 1980s.

I have studied the score in New York, where it has been conserved in immaculate condition.

How do you put a price on a piece of music that changed our perception of musical space and brought the symphony into debating the afterlife?

Sotheby’s are guesstimating £3.5-4.5 million, or around $5-7 million, which would break all known records.

Nine Mozart symphonies fetched £2.5m.

In my view, the Mahler Second is historically the most significant work of music to be offered for sale since Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in November 1982 (and I was there for that one, too).

I wish I had five million to spare.

mahler second ms

Guess I’ll just have to make do with the brilliant facsimile.


  • Ganymede says:

    Musically, even a single one of the Mozart symphonies is certainly worth a lot more than Mahler 2!

  • mr oakmountain says:

    I continue to be clueless why people feel the need to do ranking lists. I love my Mozart Requiem, I love my Mahler Resurrection. I have seperate places in my heart for them, they fulfil different needs in me and I listen to them (or read the scores) in different situations. Anyway, comparing an instrumental Mozart symphony and Mahler II does not work on so many levels for me, I would not know where to start …