The pianist and composer Anton Halm (1789-1872) first met Beethoven in 1815 and it seems the two men got on well together. Beethoven liked Halm’s bluff, military manner and apparently bore him no ill-will, even after his wayward piano playing in the Choral Fantasia in 1817 brought the performance to a halt.
Halm later told Beethoven’s biographer, AW Thayer, that while making an arrangement for two pianos of Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, Op 133 in 1826 he had asked Beethoven’s factotum, Carl Holz, to secure for his wife, Maria, a lock of his master’s hair.
The locks duly appeared but Halm subsequently discovered that he had been deceived, though whether Holz was the culprit or, as some have suggested, it was the composer himself, will never now be known.
In any event, Beethoven proclaimed his anger that his friend had been so treated, telling Halm: “See what terrible creatures I am surrounded by, whom respectable people should be ashamed to be with. You’ve been given the hairs of a goat.”
As the story goes, he promptly snipped off some of his own hair and gave it to Halm.
The locks were later given by Halm to his pupil, Julius Epstein, and had remained in his family until this summer.
Sotheby’s did not reveal any details about the buyer.