February 28, 2006

Juilliard given “priceless” music manuscripts

By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's Juilliard school unveiled a
treasure trove of music manuscripts on Tuesday given by a
collector determined to seek out the original papers scribbled
and annotated by the likes of Beethoven, Mozart and Bach.

A highlight of the collection donated to Juilliard,
considered one of world's leading music schools, by its board
Chairman Bruce Kovner is the manuscript prepared for the
printer of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. The manuscript had been
kept for 180 years in the vault of the publisher.

"That manuscript is completely wonderful, because every
page of it is covered with scratches and emendations and
occasionally even exclamations in bad language about the
stupidity of the copyists," Kovner told a news conference.

"It's certainly one of the principle sources of what we
know about Beethoven," said Kovner, founder and chairman of
hedge fund manager and trading firm Caxton Corp.

The 139 items in the collection will be housed in a newly
built scholar's reading room from 2009, when Juilliard
completes a major renovation, the school's president Joseph
Polisi said.

He declined to say how much the manuscripts were worth.
"The collection is by its very definition priceless," he said.

A lifelong music lover, Kovner began collecting musical
manuscripts more then 10 years ago when he noticed a flow of
rare artifacts coming to the market, particularly from Eastern
Europe after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

"Great manuscripts were becoming available ... at prices
which I thought were quite a bargain compared to a stuffed
shark by Damien Hirst," Kovner said, referring to a signature
work by the British artist.

Kovner bought many of the manuscripts anonymously at
auction, guided by the principle that he wanted works by the
best composers that showed the process of composition.

"I didn't purchase clean copies, with one or two exceptions
that I couldn't resist, like a Chopin," he said. "There are a
few clean copies but mostly it was dirty copies that I liked."

The collection reads like an A to Z of the classical music
masters from Bach, Beethoven and Brahms to Stravinsky and
Wagner via Mozart, Rachmaninoff and Schubert.

"I was amazed to find we could still get the manuscript of
the last act of "The Marriage of Figaro" (by Mozart)," Kovner
said. "Can you imagine that? I couldn't."