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Manuscripts by musical masters up for auction
ROME (Reuters) -- A dazzling collection of perfectly preserved 18th-century manuscripts of unknown works by musical masters such as Antonio Vivaldi go on sale on Wednesday in Rome.
"This is one of the most important collections in private hands of an Italian collection of 18th century music, which is...the peak period, for the history of music," said Fabio Bertolo, who is organizing the sale at Christie's auction house.
"If you imagine that this period influenced Bach, influenced Mozart -- you can imagine the importance of Italian music in the 18th century," he told Reuters Television before the sale.
Christie's is auctioning 80 chamber music manuscripts from prominent musicians active in Italy. The manuscripts belonged to the aristocratic Calori-Provana-Balliani di Vignola Monferrato family from the northwestern region of Piedmont.
"It was produced from musicians that worked for this court ... It brings together a huge collection of manuscripts perfectly preserved during the last three centuries in the hands of heirs and in the hands of private collectors," Bertolo said.
The highlight of the lot, which is being sold together and has a minimum price tag of 180 million lire ($88,630), is the unpublished manuscript of Vivaldi's "L'Improvvisata."
The piece, a work for strings, was played in public for the first time in three centuries in Christie's fresco-lined auction room on Monday evening. Bertolo said none of the pieces in the collection had been performed "in the modern age."
Bertolo, speaking in a book-filled manuscript archive at the auction house's sumptuous headquarters overlooking Rome's Piazza Navona, said "L'Improvvisata" was "one of the most important discoveries...for the Vivaldi (oeuvre)."
"Not only Vivaldi but all this collection has never been played ... It's an important chapter of the history of 18th century Italian music," he said, speaking in English.
Bertolo said he expected the Italian state archive, which has a huge collection of Vivaldi music in Turin -- to prove a keen bidder in Wednesday's sale, as well as private collectors.
Christie's has no idea what the manuscripts will fetch.
"The value of this lot is quite considerable -- it's 180 to 200 million lire -- but compared with the historical importance of this music it's nothing," Bertolo said.
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