Beethoven left an artifact behind him… and someone was very lucky!
You know how there are textbooks written on Beethoven’s works and sketches, but his actual sketch leaf was virtually unknown? Well, until today it was so. Why? Well, because recently an actual leaf of the great composer was found in none other than a house in Connecticut.
To begin from afar – professional appraiser Brendan Ryan never thought his musical education would ever come in handy in his current profession. However, imagine his surprise when he walked into a house in Greenwich, Connecticut and immediately spotted the leaf with the unmistakable handwriting right in front of him. Ryan calls the discovery of Ludwig van Beethoven’s piece of work “the highlight of my career”.
And he is completely right! This specific piece has been ‘absent’ for over 100 years now. Ryan and a professor, who taught him, managed to figure out where this leaf belongs. Furthermore, Ryan says the process was similar to “trying to find a word in the dictionary without knowing the first letter.”
Moreover, the appraiser had come to the house to look at some furniture and other paintings. However, the minute he walked in, he saw it hanging in the hallway, right across the room and realization struck. “Oh my God, that’s Beethoven” the appraiser thought with no doubt. Why? Well, because, as he explained later, Beethoven has an unmistakable handwriting. Also, the composer was his favorite during his school years. So there was no way he’d miss it…
Furthermore, it turned out, the leaf hanging in the Greenwich family’s hallway for over 100 years, contained music to the composer’s opus 17 “König Stephan”. Ryan quickly added his discovery to the appraisal. He did this because he knew that it was worth more than most of the things in the house! He adds “The owner decided that she would like to sell it and that’s when all the real research started because at that point we didn’t know what the music was.”
Hence, the leaf had to be figured out by a professional. In this case, Ryan turned to his former music professor- Carmelo Comberiati from Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York. They did an awful lot of work and it took them three whole weeks to figure it out. But eventually they did manage to find the “word in a dictionary without knowing the first letter.”
After a lot of searching through Beethoven’s works, photographs and databases, they finally found a photo of another sketch leaf in the digital archives at the Beethoven Haus in Bonn, Germany – Beethoven’s birth house. Thus Ryan was able to deduce that it was indeed from a piece of his “King Stephan” work.
Artistic worth aside, this leaf also gives us insight to the composer’s artistic work process. Ryan points out that “Parts are only in pencil and others are also done over in pen — that’s evidence that this is the area where Beethoven decided, ‘Okay, that’s the theme I’m going to use.'” Ease your breath – Beethoven was only human, just like us, and used pencil drafts to his own works.
Ryan is employed at Butterscotch Auction Gallery in Bedford, New York, so logically he let them deal with the relic. They sold it for $120,000 at an auction just last month. The original anonymous owner received a windfall of $100,000 for the sale. In addition, the buyer was an “important German autograph manuscript dealer” according to Ryan.
Ryan has at least 10 years of experience in the appraising business, but this finding is certainly the highlight of his career. And how can it not – Beethoven was the idol for a young and aspiring but still amateur composer such as Ryan, who admits in awe “It’s like seeing pages by your favorite author in the flesh.”
Well, with that said, certainly many more artifacts are hidden somewhere and still not found… And believe it or not, you might be the one to discover it… So keep your eyes wide open!