Angela Lear's search for the essential Chopin -
by GORDON RUMSON
'... heroic single-mindedness.'
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
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
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
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
Copyright © 14 February 2004
Gordon Rumson, Calgary, Canada