Tomorrow's auction here at Sotheby's of the autograph manuscript of nine Mozart symphonies is generating great excitement. This comes in part because all other known manuscripts of Mozart symphonies are in public collections in Europe and America, and there is not likely to be another sale of this kind again. Also a factor is the likelihood that this manuscript, valued by Sotheby's at between $1.7 million and $3.4 million, will set a record that exceeds by several times the largest amount ever paid for a musical manuscript - $534,000 for Stravinsky's ``Rite of Spring'' in 1982.
The manuscript has been offered for sale by an anonymous private collector. The nine symphonies it contains - Nos. 22-30 - are all early works, representing almost a quarter of the 44 Mozart is thought to have composed. The precise number of symphonies is disputed, for some of those attributed to him are of doubtful origin. Three in the present collection are acknowledged masterpieces. What makes this manuscript especially important is that it is the only surviving full score of the symphonies and, therefore, the primary source for published editions.
The symphonies are contained in a single bound volume of more than 500 pages. Almost the entire text is written in brown ink on thick cream paper in Mozart's own hand, together with occasional alterations. Although each of the symphonies bears a date on the opening page, in every case this has been heavily overscored by another hand. However, it is known that the paper is of the type Mozart used in the years 1773 to 1775. All the symphonies were therefore written soon after his return from his third visit to Italy with his father, Leopold, while Mozart was not yet 20.
Dr. Stephen Roe, of Sotheby's, says, ``The way the music is written down is significant. You can learn a lot about the composer's intention by looking at the manuscript.''