Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Frederic Chopin


Chopin published much of his music simultaneously in Germany, France, and England. While this certainly earned the composer triple exposure and likely a good sum of revenue, the discrepancies between these three (or more) editions can be quite the conundrum. Ever the romantic, Chopin lived in a constant state of inspiration and improvisation, and was certainly prone to editing and revising his own music even after sending final drafts to his publishers. Especially considering that all published editions of his work during his lifetime were in fact proofed and approved by the composer himself, this is a popular source of anxiety amongst pianists and scholars.
How is one to know what the composer truly meant and wanted when we are presented with autographs and first drafts bearing the composer’s approval that differ in content? Details such as phrase markings, dynamics, fingerings, even the notes themselves are often subject to suspicion. The several editions of the time had different ways of dealing with this problem; the Germans of course believed that their version was infallible, the French called Chopin their own, having spent most of his adult life based in Paris, and the English publisher (a German who largely copied the French editions) annoyed Chopin by insisting on adding flowery titles to his pieces. Nearly 200 years later, the state of affairs in regards to Chopin editions has turned over a new leaf.
Today, several scholarly editions exist that attempt to organize the vast array of sources and compile the information in one presentable volume, notably the Paderewski and Polish National editions which contain lengthy and scholarly explanations and discussions regarding choices and sources. Even so, it is ultimately up to the taste of an editor as to which version of which piece suits them most at the given time, and perhaps Chopin himself faced the same dilemma, resulting in the variations we have today.

Chopin published much of his music simultaneously in Germany, France, and England. While this certainly earned the composer triple exposure and likely a good sum of revenue, the discrepancies between these three (or more) editions can be quite the conundrum. Ever the romantic, Chopin lived in a constant state of inspiration and improvisation, and was certainly prone to editing and revising his own music even after sending final drafts to his publishers. Especially considering that all published editions of his work during his lifetime were in fact proofed and approved by the composer himself, this is a popular source of anxiety amongst pianists and scholars.
How is one to know what the composer truly meant and wanted when we are presented with autographs and first drafts bearing the composer’s approval that differ in content? Details such as phrase markings, dynamics, fingerings, even the notes themselves are often subject to suspicion. The several editions of the time had different ways of dealing with this problem; the Germans of course believed that their version was infallible, the French called Chopin their own, having spent most of his adult life based in Paris, and the English publisher (a German who largely copied the French editions) annoyed Chopin by insisting on adding flowery titles to his pieces. Nearly 200 years later, the state of affairs in regards to Chopin editions has turned over a new leaf.
Today, several scholarly editions exist that attempt to organize the vast array of sources and compile the information in one presentable volume, notably the Paderewski and Polish National editions which contain lengthy and scholarly explanations and discussions regarding choices and sources. Even so, it is ultimately up to the taste of an editor as to which version of which piece suits them most at the given time, and perhaps Chopin himself faced the same dilemma, resulting in the variations we have today.

5 comments:

  1. awesome post! showin teh loev

    http://the-state-of-human-intelligence.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Chopin was the man! It's Chopin's Year in Poland (200th anniversary of his birth.)

    ReplyDelete