Heather Carbo: Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue in Bb Major

On Thursday October 13, 2005 it was released to the press that a Librarian at Palmer Theological Seminary in St. David’s, PA discovered the lost manuscript to Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue in Bb Major. The sale on December 1, 2005 at Sotheby’s in London sold for $1.72 million.

Heather Carbo: I hope I can tell you something that will be helpful.

David Cohen: Helpful, are you kidding? You’re the person that found the Beethoven manuscript.

You can tell me everything.

What were you doing when you found it?

Heather: I work in the seminary library, as you know. During the summer we have special projects. We were rearranging an area we use for storage. I was trying to make it so we could use the space more wisely. We had a great stack of journals & missionary artifacts. Artifacts isn’t the right word, they were items that the missionaries brought back from their travels. From my perspective there was a lot of wonderful stuff. There was a Bible written in Hindi, and a beautiful book made with sheets of rice paper that was very old. There were rumors alive of the Beethoven manuscript.

Let me take you back. In the fifties there was a man named Dern. He donated money along with a Mozart manuscript and a Beethoven manuscript to the seminary. In 1989 the Mozart manuscript was discovered. There were always rumors alive that the Beethoven manuscript was around. When we were working a colleague said flippantly, “lets find the Beethoven manuscript” and I said I’ll be the one to find it. I was working on the stack of journals, I looked down and there it was on a bottom shelf. Something inside of me just knew when I saw it, that was it. I was stunned.

DC: Was it covered in dust? Was there anything on top of it?

Heather: It wasn’t covered with dust and there was nothing on top of it, it was just there.

DC: How was it wrapped?

Heather: I’d describe it as contact paper, greenish with yellow strips. Someone else said it was wallpaper.

DC: Did you open it?

Heather: I did leaf through it, I saw some writing and corrections.

I’m not a musician, I love classical music but I’m tone deaf I wouldn’t know if the violins are off.

DC: What did you do?

Heather: I was stunned. All I remember is knowing right away what it was, I immediately walked upstairs to the manager of the department and handed it to her, she said, “Oh my lord you found it”

DC: How do you feel now that you are part of music history?

Heather: Am I?

DC: YEAH! You’re the librarian that found the Beethoven manuscript.

Heather: I feel sad though delighted. It would have been nice if someone with more of a musical background found it.

DC: But you found it, it was meant for you to find.

Heather: You think so? I don’t know what your religious beliefs are and I don’t want to offend you or anyone. I want to say that I feel thankful to god for allowing me to do it.

 Have you seen the manuscript?

DC: No

Heather: It’s a shame. When it was found it was only announced to the staff and community. It was on display to the public yesterday (October 13) from 12-4. It was wonderful watching the people come to enjoy it. The was a mother from Haverford who brought seven children with her to see it. It made me feel good. It will be on display at Sotheby’s in New York November 17, 18, 19.

DC: When was it actually found?

Heather: It was a Friday in July, I don’t remember that date. I don’t remember much from that day.

DC: It had to be authenticated?

Heather: Yes it was done at the University of Pennsylvania and then there were all the contracts negotiations with Sotheby’s.

DC: Have you had tons of interview requests?

Heather: I’ve been getting calls from everywhere since this broke on Thursday. I’ve had calls from London, Seattle I haven’t spoken with anyone except the New York Times. I am reticent about talking about myself. I haven’t answered the phone at the library or home. The community is cognizant of my feelings and very protective of me.

DC: Why did you agree to talk with me?

Heather: Well, they gave me the information from you, I think your web site is a wonderful thing you are doing.

DC: Wow, thank you very much for talking to me. So I have an exclusive in the Philadelphia press.

Heather: Yes.

DC: Thank you very much

Heather: Thank you for your interest in wanting to talk to me.

Good luck with your website.

DC: You are leaving for Australia in a few days?

Heather: Yes, I am going home to see family I’ll be there for six weeks.

DC: Do they know there?

Heather: My family knows all about it.

It’s been in the papers, but it didn’t mention I am from Australia.