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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Sketch Leaves for Elgar’s Unfinished Masterpiece for Auction at Bonhams

The only two surviving sketch-leaves in private hands for Edward Elgar’s unfinished Third Symphony are to be sold at Bonhams Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs Sale in London on 22 November.

They are part of a rich collection of material that belonged to Vera Hockman, the woman with whom Elgar fell in love at first sight in November 1931 and who re-lit the composer’s creative spark after 10 fallow years. Part of the proceeds will go towards helping her great granddaughter study at the Royal College of Music.

The two sketch-leaves for sale are the first and last ones for the Third Symphony. The first bears the inscription in Elgar’s hand, “Ist sketch of VH’s own theme above/Edward Elgar” with the addition “Will never be finished?”. The last leaf bears the inscription “First thought for Sym III and last though for VH and is dated Jany 1933.” Both leaves are scored through with a K indicating that Elgar had transcribed them to the full score left uncompleted at his death a few weeks later.

The third symphony was completed using the existing score and sketches by Anthony Payne in 2000. In this completed version Vera’s theme – described by music historian Michael Kennedy as “a tender, yearning, passionate melody” – is first heard at bar 27. It is the moment when, according to Kennedy, the audience think, “Ah! This is Elgar.”

Elgar’s passionate friendship with Vera Hockman came at a time when he felt his creative life had ended. His wife Alice had died in 1920 and shaken by the loss of her constant support and inspiration and the increasing indifference of the musical establishment he had composed nothing of note since. When he first spotted Vera in the orchestra during a rehearsal for The Dream of Gerontius in November 1931 the 73 year old composer was immediately smitten. The attraction was mutual and a recently published letter written by Vera to Elgar after his death, on what would have been his birthday, showed that it was a full blown love affair on both sides. They spent much of the remainder of Elgar’s life together.

Although Elgar began to compose music again shortly after his meeting with Vera, the notoriously insecure composer continued to believe his career was over. A copy of a music score which Elgar gave to Vera in September 1932 with the words of the text “A singer who sings no more” circled and the hand written addition ‘i.e. Edward Elgar’ give some indication of his state of mind. This item, with several other mementoes of their time together, is included in the archive for sale.

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