About 450 treasures from the rare music collection of André Meyer (1884–1974) are up for auction at Sotheby’s Paris, Oct. 16–17.
Highlights of the auction include an autographed sketch leaf of piano music by Ludwig van Beethoven that was once owned by Frédéric Chopin, the first collected edition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Six Partitas for Keyboard, and Jean Philippe Rameau’s personal, annotated copy of his “Treatise on Harmony.”
He loved music so much that he bought the mansion in Rue des Petits-Champs once owned by the composer Lully.
Meyer’s manuscripts, printed scores, paintings, sculptures, drawings, and old instruments have been called “one of the most impressive French collections devoted to music” by Sotheby’s.
From the age of just 15, Meyer devoted his life to collecting music. Meyer’s family made its money in textiles, a field he worked in until 1954.
From 1945 until his death in 1974, Meyer served as treasurer of the French Musicology Society. He obtained many of the pieces in his collection during professional trips in Europe and the United States. He loved music so much that he bought the mansion in Rue des Petits-Champs that was once owned by the composer Lully, according to Sotheby’s.
Meyer is noted for opening up his collection to anyone who wants to see it. Famed Ukrainian ballet dancer Serge Lifar is among those who have viewed it.
The wide-ranging collection features many other notable pieces as well, including portraits of the composers Monteverdi, Rameau, Gluck, Mozart, Schubert, Chopin, Liszt, and Schumann. One of few remaining copies of Marco da Gagliano’s “Dafne” is also on auction. Dating from the 17th century, the piece is considered a landmark in the development of opera.
Descriptions From Sotheby’s
The most outstanding discovery of this collection is unquestionably a sketch leaf of exercises by Ludwig van Beethoven. Once owned by Frédéric Chopin, it contains ideas and exercises for piano, including scales, arpeggios, and musical fragments in a range of keys.
Beethoven outlined a more elaborate composition on the back, probably for a piano concerto in C major, comprising tremolos and a passage of ascending scales for piano and culminating in a cadenza followed by a double bar. Its presale estimate is $113,000–$184,000.
The legendary collector Aloys Fuchs acquired Beethoven manuscripts at the auction held after the composer’s death in 1827. When Frédéric Chopin visited Vienna in 1830–1831, Fuchs presented this manuscript to him. Chopin was a great admirer of Beethoven’s work, especially his piano sonatas and the opera “Fidelio.”
Bach’s Six Partitas for Keyboard.
The six partitas are among Bach’s finest works for keyboard, and musical editions published during his lifetime are exceedingly rare. Each of the first six partitas was first published individually, starting in 1725. The presale estimate is $98,000–$147,000.
In 1731, Bach united the partitas in a single volume, “Clavier-Übung I,” and designated it his Opus 1 as if to underline the importance of these works. There were three further Clavier-Übung publications. The second comprises his “Italian Concerto” and “French Overture.” The third, has the duets and the “St. Anne” Prelude and Fugue, and a fourth has the “Goldberg Variations.”
Rameau’s ‘Traité de l’Harmonie.’
The first edition of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s “Traité de l’Harmonie,” corrected and annotated by Rameau prior to the second edition in 1726, is a leading theoretical work of the 18th century and a starting-point for later theoretical studies.
Rameau’s “Treatise on Harmony,” or “Traité de l’Harmonie Réduite à Ses Principes Naturels,” was of fundamental importance in the development of Western music. It provided a synthesis of Rameau’s approach to music as a science rather than an art form.
Sotheby’s will be offering the composer’s celebrated annotated copy estimated at $74,000–$98,000).
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