And you thought fiddles were expensive?
A one-sentence letter said to be written by Mozart sold for $217,000 on Wednesday to a U.S. East Coast music collector, according to Boston-based RR Auction.
Written in German, the note (pictured above, with the address pictured on the right) is undated, but likely from July or August of 1786, according to the auction house. The letter, signed "Mozart," is addressed to Austrian botanist Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin, asking him to return three musical scores by way of messenger. Translation: "I ask you to send me by the bearer of this, the Quartet in g minor, the Sonata in Eb and the ‘New Trio in g.’"
According to the auction house, the pieces referred to are Mozart's Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor (K.478, 1785), Violin Sonata No. 33 in E-flat major (K.481, 1785), and Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in G Major (K.496, 1786). RR Auction describes the history of the letter: "This last ‘new trio in g’ was completed on July 8, 1786, and thus this letter probably dates to shortly thereafter. While K.478 was published as early as December 1785, the other two would see publication in 1786; the edition of Mozart’s ‘Briefe und Aufzeichnungen’ by Bauer and Deutsch hypothesizes that the composer required the latter two works in order to prepare them for publication However, Mozart is known to have written to the Prince of Furstenberg on August 8, 1786, offering him a number of compositions including these three clustered together at the end of his list. Thus, Mozart’s request would appear to be in connection with his plans of offering them to the Donaueschingen court."
“Mozart letters are among the most sought after of all musical autographs, and with such specificity concerning his own compositions this is a truly outstanding example,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction.
The letter came from German dealer and authority on Classical music autographs, Livingston said Thursday. The letter, which has been cited in the past by Mozart scholars in at least three documents, was acquired from a German private collection, he said.
"The provenance of this piece is very strong," Bill White, appraiser for RR Auction said Thursday. "We compared it to several known authentic examples. His handwriting varies a bit from example to example."
Of course, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) wrote numerous letters during his short life, and with much juicier content than this. Some 1,400 letters between Mozart and his family are known to exist, and many are available online, at In Mozart's Words, in original German and in English, Italian and French translation. Around half of the originals are held by the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation.
The letters open a window on Mozart's daily life, history, personality and struggles, but Mozart's letters also are known for their crude language and scatological humor.
A recent book provides many of the letters English translation: Mozart's Letters, Mozart's Life: Selected Letters, by Robert Spaethling.
Many originals, in Mozart's handwriting, can be found online as well. And to sign off, here is W.A. Mozart's full signature from Wikimedia Commons:
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