Composer has new string quartet stolen

Composer has new string quartet stolen


norman lebrecht

November 08, 2017

The French composer Philippe Manoury had his suitcase was stolen on November 6 on a train between Strasbourg and Mannheim. Inside were 40 pages of drafts for a new work for string quartet as well as copies of the fourth movement of Pierre Boulez’s String Quartet “Livre pour Quatuor”.

He’d like the thief to know that he can do what he likes with whatever else was in the suitcase, but the scores, which have no value to anyone else, are invaluable to the compose. The loss is a great blow for Manoury.

He appeals to the thief to leave the scores in a public place where they can be found.

If anyone sees or hears anything, please contact



  • John Borstlap says:

    Manoury is one of those French composers who are very eager to contribute radiant beauty and profound meaning to a dark and meaningless world. We should be grateful for such people:

    Given the contents of the suitcase, he was writing his new quartet with Boulez’ Livre at hand; therefore my guess is that the thief was a Boulezbian fanatic who wanted to prevent his musical hero to be plagiarized. Of course we would be much annoyed if there were more of this to be put into the world:

    It should be noted, that all this is a matter of old, very old people, in a historic and in an aesthetic sense. It is progress from the fifties and sixties, when people wanted to forget anything that had happened before.

    “Nothing ages as fast as the future” – Oscar Wilde.

  • Sue says:

    Interesting comments. The first piece sounded like film music to accompany action sequences. Fortunately my world isn’t dark and meaningless.

  • Dan P. says:

    Aside from M. Manoury’s quartet (which I don’t know) the striking thing about this news is if it was, in fact, the Fourth Movement of Boulez’ Livre pour Quatuor, this was the movement that was never published. Boulez held onto it. I hope this isn’t an only copy.

  • Jean says:

    Same thing happened with Leevi Madetoja’s 4th Symphony at the Paris railway station in the 1930s. His suitcase with the manuscript of the symphony was stolen and hasn’t still been found. If there’s anyone with a guilty conscience please note that the centenary of Finland’s independence approaching now might be the perfect time to return the score… –
    you will not be sued.

    • Dan P. says:

      Maybe it will appear at some point. I’m sure if someone still has it they have no idea what it is or what to do with it.. In the 1970s I heard a “first performance in the US” of a Haydn Cantata that had been lost but whose score had been recently found in someone’s cupboard in Ireland. It was really a fantastic piece.

      Speaking of lost scores – and back to lost Boulez – he wrote a presumably major piece called Symphonie Concertant for piano and orchestra sometime in the 50s that was lost when he was travelling and never found.

      • John Borstlap says:

        I think we have that PB Concertante piece here in a wooden little coffin, firmly locked, JB had brought it back from one of his Parisian trips in the past. Eleven years ago a couple of IRCAM representatives who had somehow got to know about it – the story is that PB’s sister had spoiled the beans – came here to claim it, but when they inspected the score they found it was a neoromantic type of music with an instruction on the score ‘to be played on a white piano grand’, so they changed their mind and paid us generously to keep the score where it was. One of them told us, in a hushed voice, that it must have been written in the period when PB was young and unknown and had to make a living as a pianist in a luxury bar, indeed playing on a white piano and surrounded by dancing females clothed in pink feathers.


        • Harold Lewis says:

          Wow – such scintillating wit.

        • jaypee2 says:

          Shut up… Just shut the f… up…

          Don’t you have any pride left? Are you really *that* eager to show the world what a pathetic loser you are?

          • John Borstlap says:

            Makes me think of the retired constable here in the main street of the village, when JB passes-by he opens his window and exhausts himself in calling names. But because the poor man, a widower, has a wooden leg, JB considerately ignores the prose.


  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    I once asked Boulez about this – and he said that the manuscript had been taken and binned by a chambermaid, never to be found.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The downside of luxury and appointing staff who are musically-informed.

    • Dan P. says:

      There is a picture of Boulez with a manuscript on his lap (on a CD of his early recording of The Rite of Spring (ADES 13.222-2)). I’ve always wondered if that’s the missing score. It’s not close enough to read but from a distance I don’t recognize it as any other Boulez piece I know and it appears to have a solo piano part. At least I imagine it to be.. The picture isn’t dated but I’d say it’s from the mid 50s.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    “40 pages of drafts”

    Why is he still notating on paper ?

    • Furzwängler says:

      For the same reason that some people, me included, still prefer to hold a real book in their hands rather than read the text on Kindle?

      • Dan P. says:

        Exactly! There is a great joy in holding and manipulating these objects.

      • Robert Holmén says:

        So what you’re saying is that he can just buy another copy of his string quartet, like you can buy another copy of your book if someone steals it?

        Wow. That’s amazing! Tell me how that works.

        And then tell that composer guy that all he needs to do is go to the store because his one-off quartet is like your mass produced book.

        • Dan P. says:

          There is no foolproof way of holding on to ANY document other than having a back up copy. The same principle applies both to hard and soft copies. Yes, they stole his hard copy, but if he had had it on his laptop, someone could have just as easily stolen that. No? And, there are other dangers. His hard drive could fail (that’s happened to me more than once) or he could have a slip and fall with his laptop and the laptop become unsalvageable.

          The medium makes no difference. Always keep a back-up copy of your work. If you have a hard copy, you scan it OR you can just Xerox it. Just about everyone has a copier/scanner these days. In the end, nothing is really permanent. It’s just a fact of life.

  • Don Niperi Septo says:

    Can anyone here manage to compose music which will last to the end of time like Bach or Beethoven? I doubt it all we get today is something sounding like a worn wheel bearing or the odd bum note.