Editions of Chopin’s Works in the Nineteenth Century

Aspects of Reception History

by Wojciech Bońkowski (Author)
©2016 Monographs 366 Pages


This book presents the editions of Chopin’s works as cultural texts and gives account of the main events in their reception history. Based on a new typology and an overview of copyright and economics, 140 editions evidence a dominance of a few popular works and genres (nocturnes, mazurkas, waltzes) and two distinctive tendencies in editing: academic (historical-monumental) and popular (salon & entertainment music). Four case studies research real-life typology, reprints, edition filiation, and the use of compositional sources. The author addresses edition aesthetics, from musical work ontology through national aspects of reception and recontextualisation strategies to the role of women in Chopin editing and axiological aspects of editions. The appendix includes forewords to major Chopin editions.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • acknowledgements
  • Chapter 1. State of research
  • 1. Music editing, History and theory
  • 1.1 Music editing as a specific form of scientific editing
  • 1.2 Historical research on music editions
  • 2. Chopin reception studies
  • 3. Studies on Chopin editions
  • 3.1 Research on manuscripts and other primary sources
  • 3.2 Research on later editions
  • 3.3 Editorial criticism of editions
  • Chapter 2. Editions of Chopin’s works: sources and typology
  • 1. Chopin editions in the nineteenth and twentieth century. State of research
  • 2. Nineteenth-century theory of editing
  • 3. Typology of editions
  • 3.1 Music editions classification in the existing literature
  • 3.2 Typology of editions. Pragmatic criterion: goal of the edition
  • 3.2.1 Source editions (urtexts)
  • 3.2.2 Critical editions
  • 3.2.3 Practical (teaching) editions
  • 3.2.4 Interpretative (performing) editions
  • 3.2.5 Analytical editions
  • 3.3 Typology of editions. Source criterion: documentary base of the edition
  • 3.3.1 Editions based on original editions
  • 3.3.2 Editions based on documented compositional intentions
  • 3.3.3 Editions based on noncompositional sources
  • 3.4 Typology of editions. Other possible criteria
  • 3.4.1 Biographical criterion: the editor
  • 3.4.2 Philological criterion: scope and degree of editorial interventions
  • Chapter 3. Editions of Chopin’s works: the historical perspective
  • 1. Legal and economic context of music editing in the nineteenth century
  • 1.1 Quantitative context: circulation
  • 1.2 Financial context
  • 1.3 Legal context: copyright
  • 2. Geographical distribution of editions
  • 2.1 Germany and Austria
  • 2.2 France
  • 2.3 United Kingdom and United States
  • 2.4 Russia
  • 2.5 Poland
  • 2.6 Other countries
  • 3. Distribution of editions by genre
  • 3.1 Editions of the different genres
  • 3.2 Most popular works
  • Chapter 4. Editions of Chopin’s works: the analytical perspective
  • 1. Premises and contexts of analysis
  • 2. The Karl Klindworth edition
  • 3. French editions after the expiry of copyright
  • 3.1 Impressions and dating
  • 3.1.1 Édition Originale Brandus & Cie
  • 3.1.2 Édition Classique Heugel & Cie
  • 3.2 Musical text editing
  • 4. The case of an English edition of the Concertos
  • 4.1 Musical text editing
  • 5. Editions by the Warsaw house of Gebethner i Wolff
  • 5.1 Musical text editing
  • 5.2 Filiation of the different editions
  • Chapter 5. Editions of Chopin’s works: the social and aesthetic perspective
  • 1. Editions of Chopin’s works and the understanding of musical work in the nineteenth century
  • 1.1 Musical work identity in the nineteenth century
  • 1.2 Musical work versus performance and score in the nineteenth century
  • 1.3 Variants
  • 2. Editions of Chopin’s works as a reflection of trends in performance
  • 2.1 Schools of Chopin playing
  • 2.2 Polish school: performing and editing issues
  • 2.2.1 An edition that never was: the Koczalski case
  • 2.3 The Polish–Viennese school: “dispersal of meanings”
  • 2.4 The French school: “in the shadow of shallow virtuosity”
  • 2.5 Germany: Chopin concretised
  • 3. Between salon and monument: ideologies in Chopin reception and editing
  • 3.1 Trivialisation and its strategies
  • 3.1.1 Change of substance
  • 3.1.2 Change of extramusical characteristics: Titles of Chopin’s works
  • 3.1.3 Change of context: Chopin in the kindergarten and conservatoire
  • 3.2 Arbiter elegantiae: a different understanding of the salon
  • 4. Women in Chopin editions (or not)
  • 4.1 Feminism in musicological research
  • 4.2 Who consumed Chopin? The sociology of the salon
  • 4.3 From effeminacy to “sodomy.” The dark side of femininity
  • 4.4 The circle of female students
  • 5. Editions of Chopin’s works and national aspects of reception
  • 5.1 National differentiation of the repertoire
  • 5.2 Late works
  • 5.3 National paradigms of reception
  • 5.3.1 Poland: superficial familiarity
  • 5.3.2 France and Germany: appropriating Chopin
  • 5.3.3 England: a disease that needs to be cured
  • 6. The value of Chopin’s works editions in the nineteenth century
  • Bibliography
  • A. Sources
  • 1. Editions of Chopin’s works
  • 1.1 Nineteenth century
  • 1.2 Twentieth century
  • 2. Publishers’ catalogues
  • B. References
  • List of illustrations
  • Appendix
  • Index of publishers
  • Index of names

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This book was born out of astonishment. In the vast Chopin bibliography—one that is now impossible to fully embrace—there are surprising gaps, one being the editions of Chopin’s works and their history. That topic is perhaps the most neglected in musicological research to date, even more so than the (equally unloved) history of Chopin piano performances. I address the reasons of this state of affairs in Chapter 1. I have no doubts that filling this gap is a most urgent scholarly endeavour.

Consequently, the fundamental premise of this book is to look comprehensively at the history of editions of Chopin’s works as cultural texts. To reject the hitherto dominant normative perspective—typical of historiographic and editorial approaches—and see editions as events of reception history, a peculiar “mirror carried along the high road” of nineteenth-century musical culture, decipher their encoded meanings and visions of Chopin’s work, ideologies, positions in the deepest nineteenth-century debates surrounding music and the musical work.

The scope of this dissertation has essentially been limited to editions published in the nineteenth century. The starting date is that of Chopin’s death, 1849, marking the end of the composer’s control over the publication of his musical texts and at the same time, opening a stage of reception history characterised by increasingly numerous and complex events. Chopin’s death also opened the era of editions that were more or less critical in nature, i.e. based on editorial changes introduced to the compositional text. From then on, an edition is no more a compositional source and becomes a cultural text: textual and contextual changes are triggered by a number of acknowledged and unconscious motivations that make up reception history. The understanding of Chopin’s text underwent numerous evolutions in that period, coloured as it was by different contexts of reception: (1) music history: the evolution of musical styles and trends; (2) editorial theory and practice: new methodologies of preparing editions, the emergence of new theoretical (source edition) and practical categories; (3) sociology: the evolution of Chopin’s audiences; (4) philosophical: the ontological status of the musical work and its relationship with performance and score, the status of the author and his creative intention, the possibility of cognising a work, and so forth.

I chose the end of the nineteenth century as the border date for my body of examined Chopin editions. That date, however, does not coincide with any sharp caesura in the history of music editing. Therefore, I have treated it flexibly, and ← 9 | 10 → have in many cases discussed later editions, too. It is true that the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century brought the publication by the Royal Academy of the Arts in Berlin of the Urtext classicher Musikwerke series and consequently, the final shaping of the monumental, scientifically grounded source edition. That was a pivotal moment in the history of music editing, but research into Chopin editions show that the historical reality was more complicated: the notion of “source edition” developed since the 1850s; the Berlin Urtext was just one of the stages of emergence of editorial historicism; Urtext as an edition type fully crystallised only after World War II; and finally, there were other important phenomena in editing history, such as critical and teaching editions, for which the year 1900 offered no relevant caesura. In this book, it has also proven necessary to discuss later editions as the best exemplifications and final evolutionary stages of editorial types that emerged earlier, in the nineteenth century.

My archival research in both Polish (Biblioteka Narodowa, National Chopin Institute, Warsaw Music Society) and international libraries (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, British Library, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Staatsbibliothek in Berlin, and others) resulted in a large body of sources, including around one hundred and forty editions of Chopin’s works in original form (I have excluded transcriptions from the scope of the present book; they have been thoroughly researched by Barbara Literska1), of widely different character: from monumental editions of complete works to occasional prints of single pieces. A complete list and detailed characteristic of those sources is to be found in the Bibliography, while I classify those editions in Chapter 2, Editions of Chopin’s works: state of the sources and their classification. Starting from earlier classifications in the musicological literature, I have redefined and completed them with hitherto undiscussed types of editions, based on pragmatic criteria: the goal of editions. That classification originates from notions and distinctions that were already used in the nineteenth century by music editors; it is, therefore, partly historical, objective, but also intuitive. For the sake of completeness, I also propose purely subjective, ahistorical classifications, based on heuristic and biographical criteria.

Chapter 3 and 4 discuss a broad body of editions from the dual point of view of reception history. In Chapter 3, Editions of Chopin’s works: the historical perspective, I primarily focus on the quantitative aspect of Chopin editing, i.e. its civilisational context: the geographical distribution of editions; the specificity of Chopin editing ← 10 | 11 → in different countries, directly influencing textual and philological elements; the quantitative, statistical aspect of editions; their functioning on the marketplace; and legal issues such as copyright. I also address aspect of genre distribution of editions, linked directly to cultural issues of reception. A detailed qualitative analysis of selected editions (philological text analysis from the point of view of their relationship to sources as well as the scope and character of editorial changes) is included in Chapter 4, Editions of Chopin’s works: the analytical perspective. Based on four case studies, focusing on representative editions from the four most important cultural centres of Chopin editing (Germany; France; England; and Poland), I discuss the key philological phenomena such as (1) source filiation; (2) an edition’s position in the series of original works and replicas; (3) variants and their role in Chopin’s works; (4) the relationship of source and critical elements in text editing; (5) editorial strategies such as the verification and compilation of sources, and the scope and character of an editor’s own interventions. Some of those aspects, such as dating, reprints, and later runs of given editions, link with the quantitative topic of Chapter 3, but are discussed here in detail on the example of selected editions and in connection with their philological aspects.

Chapter 5, Editions of Chopin’s works: the social and aesthetic perspective, is a discussion of the broad phenomena of Chopin’s work reception in the nineteenth century and their reflection in music editions. The results of my quantitative and qualitative analysis, linked with studies of source texts (forewords to different editions, articles by Chopin editors and performers, musical press) and the latest musicological literature on reception studies, are used to illuminate Chopin editing in the broad context of a social reception of the composer’s music. Such an approach is made the more necessary by the fact that to date, the different narratives on Chopin editions were limited to the normative aspect (assessment of editions’ texts from the point of view of more or less narrowly defined source criteria), but were rarely seen as an element of cultural history. The latter approach was hitherto represented by Anglo-Saxon authors, particularly Jeffrey Kallberg and Jim Samson; their research has been the strongest inspiration of my own studies. I also refer to aesthetically conceived reception history as practised by Irena Poniatowska and Zofia Chechlińska, as well as selected French authors, and finally, to the current—dynamically developing in recent years—of gender studies in music, shedding a new light on the history of Chopin reception and editing.

Jim Samson writes that music history “construct[s] narratives, and these narratives … effectively stabilise the musical work, in that they view it either as a relational object or as the effect of a cause. Reception studies, on the other hand, construct a rather different history, a history of response, of people’s involvement ← 11 | 12 → with musical works.”2 The object of the final chapter of this work is to examine ways in which that response to Chopin and his work manifests itself in printed scores. Chopin’s work in the nineteenth century was trivialised, instrumentalised, ideologised (such as in the trend of simplified editions; salon music and Chopin’s “femininity,” particularly lively in English, and to a lesser extent, French culture), recontextualised, redefined, commented, translated, analysed (analytical and interpretative editions, poetic commentaries to Chopin’s works; the issue of romanticism, emotionality, and visionary character of Chopin, particularly lively in French, and to a lesser extent Polish, culture), nobilitated, promoted to the musical canon but also edited to satisfy determined aesthetic criteria (the current of monumental and historicising editions; the issue of Chopin’s classicism and his national character, particularly lively in German, and to a lesser extent Russian, culture). Editions of Chopin’s works became an emanation of musical analysis; the object of trivialisation toward popular music; the victim of nationalist debates over the superiority of one culture over others; and finally, an attempt at immobilising in time a given musical performance, i.e. an anticipation of emerging sound recording.

The “horizons of expectations” (a currently fashionable term of reception studies) of editors were expressed in methodological–ideological forewords or literary–analytical commentaries; editions grew in extramusical elements when the musical text itself became increasingly unable to carry the various meanings superimposed on Chopin’s art. The horizons of expectations of pianists were reflected in a abundant emendation of all elements of the musical text, from pedalisation and dynamics to (in extreme cases) the work’s very form; simultaneously, the reverse tendency also grew toward presenting the work cleansed of any noncompositional additions, in its “pure” form based on primary sources. The horizons of expectations of teachers and their students sought expression in various strategies of determining the musical text: edited or thoroughly new systems of fingering, dynamics, tempo, and expression, added performance commentaries aimed at directing a student’s playing and making for an easier comprehension of the musical and poetic context of the work; these approaches originated from the teaching method of Chopin himself, and contributed to the emergence of the main currents (schools) of Chopin playing. The horizons of expectations of audiences, more or less correctly identified by publishing houses, were reflected in the recontextualisation of Chopin’s work, its adaptation, adoption, harnessing to various musical–social situations, in which the works’ immanent musical ← 12 | 13 → content sometimes lost its primary meaning, but also conversely, became the object of a reverential, almost museum-like reconstruction. The notated text of Chopin’s work as an expression of the composer’s intention and the core of that work’s solid identity became a passive object of intervention and modification; text and context were modified according to need and scheme. Yet that solid identity proved resistant to the test of time; centripetal and centrifugal tendencies, trivialisation and nobilitation, utilitarianism and pietism remained in a state of balance, and the move between levels of understanding of the work was often fluent. If English musicology defines the history of Chopin reception in the nineteenth and twentieth century as a “dispersal” and “closure of meanings,”3 we may think we have come full circle. Our modern urtext editions have the ambition of giving us Chopin’s text as it was written by the composer. Yet we know more about that text and work than ever before, enriched as we are with the various approaches to Chopin over the past two centuries. An important transcript of those approaches is to be found in music editions, from Heugel’s Édition modèle of 1860 up to Alfred Cortot’s Édition de travail of 1947. Together, they compose a greatly varied but specifically coherent group of historical sources. This book wants to be a chronicle of those sources.

1 Literska, Dziewiętnastowieczne transkrypcje utworów F. Chopina.

2 Samson, “Chopin Reception,” 15.

3 Ibid., 11.

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This book is a modified and edited version of my doctoral dissertation, written under the guidance of Professor Maciej Gołąb at the Institute of Musicology of the University of Warsaw (2008). My original research was financed by the Polish Committee for Scientific Research (KBN) in 2003–6 (project no. 2 H01E 030 25). This current publication was financed by a Minister of Science and Higher Education programme titled National Programme for the Development of Humanities in the years 2012–14.

I am indebted to a number of people who kindly provided assistance in the course of my research. I particularly thank Dr. Krzysztof Grabowski and Prof. John Rink for their valuable insights; Dr. Paweł Kamiński of the National Edition for allowing me access to some rare sources; Teresa Lewandowska of the Chopin Institute Library for her patience; and above all, Professor Maciej Gołąb for relentlessly encouraging my research for a long seven years. All remaining errors are my own.

Wojciech Bońkowski

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Chapter 1
State of research

1. Music editing, History and theory

1.1 Music editing as a specific form of scientific editing

In his classic book on the scientific bases of music editing,4 James Grier defined the specificity of that subdiscipline versus literary editing. Highlighting the relatively young history of music editing, whose earliest origins can be sought in the mid-eighteenth-century editions of the works of Handel, but which developed on a larger scale only with the emergence of the complete editions of leading German composers in the mid-nineteenth century, Grier comments on the hidden ideological character that accompanied music editing from the very beginning: “Since the formation of the Bach-Gesellschaft in 1850 … musicologists have produced an enormous quantity of distinguished editions …. But a strong element in the undertaking was the creation of a canon, a central core of repertory, whose texts carried the same philological weight as their rivals in literature and political history.”5 That observation leads Grier to emphasise the historical conditioning of any types of music editions, including those that theoretically embrace objectivism and a transmission of the composer’s intentions free from contaminations:

Over the past century and a half, music editions strove to present a neutral edition, one that seemed to preserve objectivity and permitted either a limited scope for editorial intervention, or none at all. Again, a term, this time Urtext, reveals the mode of editorial thinking. An Urtext purports to present the “original” text of the composer, unmediated by the editor. But even the staunchest proponents of the concept, Günther Henle and Georg Feder, recognize the necessity for the editor’s critical involvement, as I show below. That admission underscores the central tenet of this book: editing is an act of criticism.6

Therefore, while music editing follows scientific philological editing in developing its own theoretical–methodological as well as practical foundations, explicitly formulated in the forewords to source editions published in the second ← 17 | 18 → half of the nineteenth century,7 Grier sees that process as a change of attitude toward the character of editing: a move from the prescientific to the scientific phase of editing and not a qualitative breakthrough. He points how the move reflects the “distinction between the work, which depends equally on the score and performance for its existence, and a text, either written (a score) or sounding (a performance) that defines a particular state of the work. This is the distinction I maintain throughout this study: the work exists in a potentially infinite avatar of states, whether in writing (the score) or in sound (performance); the text is one of those states.”8

1.2 Historical research on music editions

In the above-quoted book of James Grier, the author indicates that “until recently there has been very little critical discourse about the nature of music editing.”9 The historiography of that subdiscipline is equally limited. While both Grier and authors of writings on the history of music reception in the nineteenth century discuss editions, they do so on the margin of their main narrative (see, for example, Carl Dahlhaus10). The fundamental work here is Music Printing and Publishing, edited by Donald Krummel and Stanley Sadie,11 which presents a broad historical and systematic overview. On the other hand, the number of detailed works on music editing is significant, with the many minor writings on the various publishing houses (German literature on this topic is particularly rich). The basic historical overviews on publishing houses are: in England, Charles Humphries and William Smith’s Music Publishing in the British Isles and Oliver Neighbour and Alan Tyson’s; English Publishers’ Plate Numbers; in Germany, Otto Deutsch’s Musik Verlags Nummern; in France, the comprehensive, three-volume Dictionnaire des éditeurs de musique français by Anik Devriès and François Lesure. Russian publishers are discussed briefly by Cecil Hopkinson. The latest and most complete work on Polish publishers is Warszawskie edytorstwo muzyczne 1772–1865, which follows the earlier works of Maria Prokopowicz and Krzysztof Mazur.12 ← 18 | 19 →

A historical and sociological approach to music editing was proposed by Hans Lenneberg in his extensive work titled On the Publishing and Dissemination of Music. 1500–1850.13 The author looked at the social history of editing, transcending the earlier systematic, cataloguing approaches, and answering the crucial questions: who over the centuries has been buying music prints? What were the consequences of introducing copyright in the nineteenth century? How did editing influence musical taste; who chose which works to publish; how much did publisher and composer earn? Using the earlier research of Daniel Heartz, Samuel Pogue, Thomas Whitney Bridges, Catherine Weeks Chapman, Kristine Forney, and James B. Coover, Lenneberg draw a history of editing from the invention of musical printing to the mid-nineteenth century. He points out the significant differences in the development of music printing in various countries: since the end of the seventeenth century, German-speaking countries experienced a collapse of around a hundred years, while music editing in England and France developed unhindered. French editing flourished particularly between 1827 and 1865, when there were thirty-nine publishers and thrity-four engravers operating in Paris alone, and according to various estimates, France exported between three and four times more music than it imported from other countries. In the 1870s and 1880s, the proportion was reversed, and Germany became the leading exporter of music prints.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (October)
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 366 pp.

Biographical notes

Wojciech Bońkowski (Author)

Wojciech Bońkowski specialises in performance and reception studies. He holds a PhD in musicology with a dissertation on editions of Chopin’s works in C19. He has also written on computer-assisted performance analysis, historical pianos, and Chopin’s food and drink.


Title: Editions of Chopin’s Works in the Nineteenth Century
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366 pages