Lot 199, Mozart Kyrie in C
A rare Mozart manuscript smuggled out of Germany by a Jewish refugee on the eve of the Second World War has been discovered in South America.
Hailed as the most important of the composer’s works to appear at auction in a decade, it is expected to fetch up to £500,000 when it goes under the hammer in London.
Mozart was 16 when he wrote the Kyrie in C Major choral work in 1772, which he abandoned after five pages.
The story of its survival is an extraordinary one. In 1938, a Jewish musician from Munich called Rudolf Götz made preparations to flee Nazi Germany.
Knowing that valuables or currency would be confiscated by the authorities, Götz decided to spend his last remaining funds on the manuscript which at that time could be purchased for a relatively small sum.
He and his family boarded a ship bound for South America, taking the manuscript with him but separating it from the title page in order to hide its provenance.
The decision to keep hold of the manuscript proved to be a good one. The ship carrying the title page and the rest of the family’s belongings set sail in 1939 but was torpedoed before reaching its destination. Everything on board was lost.
The manuscript is being sold by Götz’s daughter, who is now aged 98 and wanted to see it returned to Europe before she dies.
It is the headline lot in Sotheby’s music and manuscripts sale on May 20, with a pre-sale estimate of £300,000-500,000.
Simon Maguire, Sotheby’s musical manuscript specialist, said: “The family couldn’t take obvious valuables or currency with them when they left so they took this. We don't know how much it cost but in the 1930s something like that didn't make a lot of money. Ten years earlier there had been a whole auction of Mozart manuscripts that would be worth millions today, but half of them failed to sell.
"This was, I suppose, a relatively easy thing to conceal but Mr Götz's family said that as he left for South America he also wanted some of that European musical culture to take with him.
“He took the cover off because that explained exactly what the contents were. There was a certain amount of deception involved in getting it out of Germany like this."
Mr Maguire added: “I met Mr Götz’s daughter and she said she felt something ought to happen to it – that South America is a funny place for a Mozart manuscript to be.
“She has no ill feelings about it going back to Germany or Austria. And she felt this should be done while she was alive, when she was still able to explain what had happened. She wanted to tie up the loose ends.”
The provenance of the manuscript can be traced back to the 19th century, when the Viennese collector Aloys Fuchs gifted it to a Benedictine Abbey in Göttweig, Lower Austria. It is believed the work was later bought by a Mozart collector, Dr Max Zenger, who sold it to Mr Götz.
The family approached the Abbey and the Mozart museum in Salzburg to offer the manuscript for sale before contacting Sotheby's, but neither had sufficient funds.