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Brave heart

Angela Lear's search for the essential Chopin -

'... heroic single-mindedness.'

Angela Lear - Chopin Etudes Op 10 and Op 25. © 2003 Libra Records Ltd

The piano music of Chopin is at the core of the repertoire for the instrument. His music is played everywhere and has been recognized since its creation as of the highest quality. Chopin's music has also been the subject of many interpretations, some almost as individual as the composer himself.

Leopold Godowsky's versions of the Etudes may represent the most extreme interpretation of the music itself, rewriting, rearranging the Etudes with a diabolic ingenuity. But even performers who 'adhere to the score' greatly inflect their readings by personal, pianistic, musical and emotional modifications.

However, at what point does interpretation exceed the bounds of propriety? What is the basis upon which any consideration of the essential must stand? We have no recording of Chopin performing and are drastically the poorer for it.

Thus, the searcher after truth must go to the available sources: manuscripts and documents of various kinds. Angela Lear has done so with a heroic single-mindedness. What she has discovered is important.

Anyone who has ever made an edition from manuscripts and first publications knows that the process is highly individual, all scholarly pretense notwithstanding. Decisions have to be made (is that an E or D in the score?) and the decisions are made, though sometimes not noted as such. But in Chopin's music the invasion of the editor has been extensive and even now it seems that an uncorrupt edition of Chopin's music is a rarity. There are numerous first editions published in Chopin's lifetime, varying with country and available online (see the link at the end of this review).

However, rather than consider merely the publications and editions by followers of Chopin -- all in glorious disagreement -- Lear has focused upon the manuscripts and copies annotated by Chopin himself.

From these investigations, which have consumed her for many years, Angela Lear has come to some striking conclusions. They are presented in her recordings of the Etudes, Op 10 and Op 25 and discussed on a second CD of lecture demonstration.

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Copyright © 14 February 2004 Gordon Rumson, Calgary, Canada


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