The sale of Mahler’s musical century

The sale of Mahler’s musical century


norman lebrecht

November 17, 2016

I helped make a short film for Sotheby’s about the forthcoming sale of the Mahler Second Symphony manuscript.

Sotheby’s say: No autograph of a complete symphony by Mahler has come for sale at auction for nearly 60 years. Indeed, since Sotheby’s sold Mahler’s first symphony in 1959 no autograph of a complete symphony by any of the great late Romantic composers -Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner or Mahler – has been sold at auction.

Symphonically speaking, this is the sale of the century.

The sale takes place on November 29. You can watch the film below.

mahler second ms

(In the film, I appear to say that Gil Kaplan conducted the symphony 160 times. It was actually 116.)


  • John Borstlap says:

    NL is absolutely right in saying that Mahler’s music tells us something about the meaning of life, but I would add: especially in our time (counting from 1900 onwards). On a purely musical level, this is a rather mixed message.

  • Peter Phillips says:

    When Gilbert Kaplan recorded Mahler 2 for the first time with the LSOin Cardiff he gave everyone who had taken part a facsimile page from the score. I sang in one of the choirs assembled for the occasion and duly received a copy. GK decided he wasn’t happy with his tempo in the last movement so at a later date he re-hired St David’s Hall, the LSO and most of the choirs and we did a retake. This is the one on the cd. In fact, the LSO chorus couldn’t get to the retake so it is just the Welsh choirs. Altogether a happy experience, unlike his VPO remake I gather.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Yes, it was. I was there, filming for the BBC.

      • Peter Phillips says:

        It is an excellent film, Norman; I have seen it twice, once when it first aired and recently on SD. Part from the central musical questions it accurately captured something of the spirit of the occasion and the essential decency and integrity of GK. Some of us, knowing that the cameras would be there, wore specially lurid tops so that we would be able to see ourselves. The other prized memory is of meeting and talking with Maureen Forrester who learnt her Mahler from Bruno Walter, who learned it from Mahler himself. A generous lady and a great singer. Thanks for the memory, Norman!

        • norman lebrecht says:

          Thank you, Peter. Maureen was a joy – and I remember the lurid tops. I also remember some of the London musicians being taken to places of copious refreshment by Cardiff choristers. Great days.

  • DAVID says:

    What is the recording/version used in the short film?

  • Gustav says:

    Does anybody know if there are restrictions on how this manuscript is to be kept once purchased – privately? Imagine somebody having it on their coffee table and spilling brandy all over it.

    Please pray a museum or government purchases this, it is of massive international importance. Also pray some toffee nosed hedonistic conductor with millions in the bank doesn’t get hold of it.

  • Gustav says:

    Also, Is that the original manuscript Mark Elder is touching in the video? If it is, he is not wearing gloves. Another outrage.