announced the London sale of the only surviving autograph manuscript for Sergei Rachmaninovs Second Symphony in E Minor, OP.27 on 20th May 2014 (est. £1,000,000-1,500,000). Presumed lost since soon after the symphonys premiere in St Petersburg in 1908, it was rediscovered nearly a century later in 2004 in the estate of a European private collector.
It is one of the few autograph manuscripts of a symphony, central to the international orchestral repertory, remaining in private hands. In its 320 pages, it contains a wealth of new information, revealing Rachmaninovs compositional processes when he was at the height of his powers, in one of his greatest works. There is even new unpublished material, unknown to Rachmaninov scholars and absent in any edition of the symphony.
It is the only surviving manuscript providing any insight into the genesis and evolution of this celebrated work. No early sources, whether sketches, short-score drafts, or copyists manuscripts have survived: this seems to be the sole primary source.
The Second is widely acknowledged as Rachmaninovs greatest Symphony. Following firmly in the symphonic tradition of Tchaikovsky, it is a large, lyrical and open-hearted work with soaring Romantic themes and lush orchestration, which continues to be performed and recorded today, over a century after its premiere.
Composed in Dresden, where Rachmaninov lived from 1906-1909, it was created especially for a series of concerts run by his cousin Alexander Siloti. After Rachmaninov conducted the first performances in St. Petersburg on January 26th 1908 and in Moscow a few days later on February 2nd, it seems highly likely that he revised the orchestration, making this score the last remaining evidence of Rachmaninovs original vision, hitherto lost to history and now rediscovered.
The manuscript was previously announced for sale at Sothebys in 2004, and was withdrawn from the auction following an ownership claim. An amicable settlement ensued, and the manuscript sold privately to the current owner in 2005. It has been on view at the British Library since then.
* The last comparable sale took place in December 1994 when Robert Schumanns autograph manuscript for Symphony No 2 in C major, Op.61 sold for £1.48 million at Sothebys.