The auction house has issued a statement after a Beethoven manuscript failed to sell this morning, following a row on the BBC today programme over its authenticity.
Sotheby’s statement regarding Beethoven’s Allegretto in B minor:
‘We believe it was irresponsible for a third party to raise doubts about Beethoven’s “Allegretto” in B Minor manuscript when they had not inspected it first-hand or taken into account its provenance and the inscription by an English vicar confirming that it was composed and written by Beethoven. This unfortunately had a direct impact on the auction sale, but Sotheby’s stands by its description of the manuscript as an authentic and important piece of musical history and Sotheby’s view is shared by the majority of world-renowned Beethoven scholars who have inspected the manuscript personally.’
Sotheby’s categorically rejects the suggestion that the Beethoven manuscript is a contemporary copy:
– It has been suggested that the Rev John Abbiss of St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield, forged this copy of Beethoven’s “Allegretto” in B minor, transcribing it from a score given by Beethoven to Richard Ford in Vienna in November 1817.
– However, the manuscript is so close in all respects to the other original, discovered by Sotheby’s in 1999, that it cannot be a contemporary transcript. Instead, Beethoven made this copy for John Abbiss himself, almost immediately after he wrote out Ford’s score.
– The manuscript carries an inscription by Abbiss in a completely different hand and ink from the music (cf numerous pages in contemporary notebooks in Abbiss’s hand from the Church of St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield). Unless he was a practised forger, it is very unlikely that he would master an imitation of hand so characteristic and difficult to achieve. Abbiss’s copy was not laboriously traced either: it is not an exact replica.