By Dan Coles
An undiscovered masterpiece by Sir Edward Elgar has sold at auction for £11,000 – after it was discovered hidden in the pages of an autograph book.
The ‘andante’ melody, which dates back to 1924, was written on musical manuscript paper and signed by the great composer, responsible for some of the most iconic classical music to ever come from England.
Believed to be scored for a string quartet, experts believe the tune could also be a brief overture for a more comprehensive piece.
It was discovered tucked away inside an autograph book owned by a charity fundraiser who died in 1983 and was believed to not have been heard aloud for nearly 100 years.
The musical manuscript and autograph book sold for a combined total of £11,000 at Richard Winterton Auctioneers’ Library Sale at The Lichfield Auction Centre in Lichfield, Staffs, yesterday [TUES].
Auctioneer Richard Winterton, who stars in BBC’s Bargain Hunt and Dickinson’s Real Deal, said: “The excitement built up, with more than watching online and 35 registered bidders on this lot at any one time.
“When you add bidders on the telephones and a packed auction room, it just showed what an incredible find this was.
“The vendors were in the room, which put extra pressure on for us on the day of the auction.
“We are absolutely delighted with these results.
“The items sold for a total hammer price of £9,000 – £5,400 for the manuscript and £3,600 for the autograph book – with fees taking it up to £11,000 in total.
“It was a really great day with lots of interest, and an even better result.”
Sir Edward William Elgar, who was born in 1857 and died in 1934, is regarded as one of England’s greatest composers, with many of his compositions featuring in classical concert repertoires all over the world.Orchestral works such as the Enigma Variations and Pomp and Circumstance marches sit among his best-known compositions alongside two symphonies and concertos for violin and cello.
The autograph book the piece contained, which is bulging with impressive signatures and dates back to 1923, was owned collected by Lydia Tabb, a matron at Barnardo’s, during her time fundraising for the charity.
It contains approximately 69 signatures including five Prime Ministers – Herbert Henry Asquith, David Lloyd George, Stanley Baldwin, Ramsay MacDonald and Winston Churchill – as well as four important authors, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, HG Wells, Sir JM Barrie and Rudyard Kipling
Other signatures in the book include those of Charlie Chaplin, the future King George VI and many important figures from the First World War including Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the supreme Allied Commander during WW1, and Field Marshal Earl Haig.
Richard said: “Elgar is widely regarded as one of this country’s greatest ever composers.
“There can’t be many people who don’t know some of his music, even if they aren’t necessarily aware that he wrote it.
“Unfolding this musical manuscript tucked away inside an autograph book – which was already loaded with impressive signatures – I could not believe what I was seeing.”