Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony manuscript sells for record £4.5m

The complete manuscript of Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony has been sold by Sotheby’s for a record £4.5m on Tuesday. The handwritten 232-page score - known as the Resurrection Symphony - includes the composer’s deletions, alterations and annotations. It was owned by US businessman Gilbert Kaplan, who became obsessed with the work after seeing it performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1965. “Zeus threw the bolt of lightning. I walked out of that hall a different person,” he said.

The result establishes a new auction record for a musical manuscript.


Kaplan dedicated his life to conducting it before his death earlier this year. The symphony opened for the first time in Berlin in 1895. It was performed with a 90-piece orchestra, soprano and alto soloists, chorus and organ. “This was the first major work that saw the composer confront the universal themes of life and death, which were so characteristic of his oeuvre,” Sotheby’s said. This was the only complete Mahler symphony ever sold at an auction, and had a starting price of £3.5m. The new buyer has chosen to remain anonymous.

The work retains the form in which Mahler left it, reflecting and revealing the compositional process for the work.