Serendipitous Search

For 75 years, the whereabouts of the original manuscript of two of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s greatest piano works was unknown to the world. But in July, Judy DiBona, accounting manager at Eastern College in St. David’s, Pennsylvania, was searching for some historical records at nearby Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before she found what she was looking for, DiBona, herself a pianist, stumbled on the manuscript of Mozart’s Fantasia in C Minor and Sonata in C Minor.

The last known owner of the 14-page, brown-ink manuscript had been philanthropist and hymn writer William H. Doane, who acquired the manuscript in 1889. At his death in 1915, Doane left it and other manuscripts to his widow, who passed them on to a daughter, who in turn donated them to Eastern Seminary in 1950. From that point, the manuscript spent most of its time in a safe.

Though unsigned and undated, scholars are certain the manuscript was penned in 1784–85 in Mozart’s hand. Stephen Roe, music manuscript expert at Sotheby’s, an auction house specializing in arts and antiques, has examined the manuscript. According to Roe, early alterations to the key signature on the first page of the Fantasia make it clear it was Mozart’s first draft of the piece. The manuscript, he said, lends credence to Mozart’s reputation for being able to compose rapidly and fluently straight onto the paper.

DiBona’s discovery is expected to net Eastern Seminary between $930,000 and $1,400,000 when it is auctioned at Sotheby’s in London on November 21.

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