From trash to treasure: British composer Holst's lost manuscripts found in New Zealand

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Two handwritten music manuscripts discovered in a library clearout at an amateur orchestra in New Zealand have been confirmed as the work of British composer Gustav Holst, untraced for more than a century.

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The North Island’s Bay of Plenty Symphonia is mapping the path of the 1906 manuscripts after Britain’s Holst Archive last month said they were the authentic and original signed work of a composer best known for his orchestral suite, “The Planets”.

“The last few weeks we’ve been trying to piece together how they ended up there and why we have got them,” said violaplayer and orchestra member Bronya Dean.

One possibility was that Stanley Farnsworth, who conducted a predecessor group in the 1960s, brought them with him from Britain, she added.

Some accompanying papers are in the handwriting of Farnsworth, whose wife gave a lot of music to the orchestra after his death, Dean said.

Yet pieces of the puzzle remain to be found.

“We can’t establish any connection between him and Holst yet,” said Dean, adding that the orchestra got in touch with the Holst Archive to authenticate the handwriting after research suggested it matched the composer’s.

One of the two manuscripts found, “Folk Songs from Somerset”, is a precursor to a published piece called “Somerset Rhapsody”, Dean said, while the other, “Two Songs Without Words”, has been published and is often played.

For now, the orchestra will retain the manuscripts with the aim of performing the music next year, although it plans to eventually return them to Britain.

“We are a charity organization, we are not here to make money, so it would make sense morally to put it where it belongs, and it seems to belong in the United Kingdom,” said orchestra music director Justus Rozemond.

The manuscripts narrowly escaped being discarded in the library clearout a few years ago, Rozemond added.

“At some point this handwritten piece came along and we were fairly close to actually chucking that out as well, but we had another look at it,” he said.

Reporting by Ana Nicolaci da Costa; Editing by Clarence Fernandez