Sotheby’s recent sale of manuscripts by composers such as Birtwistle, Ades and Colin Matthews has raised money for the Heslington Foundation. It also raises awareness of the likely rarity of handwritten music among contemporary composers in a digital age.
Tom Service writes:’For me, there is a rare magic in seeing composers’ handwriting at close quarters. These manuscripts are one-of-a-kind objects in their own right, and to anyone with a musical soul, there’s a frisson of excitement in seeing the composer’s notes in the flesh.’
Absolutely. Seeing the manuscript reinforces the seriousness of the composer’s intention; yes, he really meant the stringendo, this accent, that crescendo. Written instructions seem more emphatic than neatly printed ones. The volume and urgency of a crescendo can almost be gauged by the way the sign is drawn.