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Nineteenth-Century Transcriptions of Works by Fryderyk Chopin


Barbara Literska

This book is the first monographic study of nineteenth-century transcriptions of Chopin's music. The work is based on the quantitatively and qualitatively rich source material, which formed the basis for considerations from the perspective of social history, music analysis and aesthetics. Thanks to these multiple perspectives, as well as the time range and the source base, this study may contribute to the history of the reception of Chopin’s work in nineteenth-century culture; it may also prove significant in overcoming the attitude that aesthetically deprecates transcriptions and in adopting a different stance, regarding such adaptations as valuable texts of musical culture.

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1 Transcriptions of works by Chopin as sources for research into the reception of his music in nineteenth-century musical culture – methodological issues


1.1 The subject and terminology

The word transcription comes from the Latin transcriptio. Its equivalents in other languages are transcrizione (Italian), transcription (French) and Bearbeitung (German). A transcription is a rewriting of a musical text by means of other ‘musical meanings’, depending on the performance apparatus or the artistic competence of the transcriber. One basic aim of musical transcriptions is to obtain an artistic reworking that sounds different to and departs from the original to a specified degree. Similar terms are ‘arrangement’ and ‘paraphrase’. Whilst an arrangement involves reorganising and recomposing a piece, transcription is devoid of that creative element. In musical reality, the two terms both involve reworking a musical composition, treated as a model for successive transformations. There are also elements that differentiate the two terms; these can be found in encyclopaedic and non-encyclopaedic definitions.4 Polish terminology is inexact: the meanings of the two related terms transkrypcja and aranżacja are not sufficiently specified and there is no reference to their etymology. Each of them is perceived as signifying a reworking of a composition for concert or artistic purposes. The words aranżacja and aranżowanie are often used in relation to popular music,5 while in relation to ‘classical music’ one speaks of transkrypcja and transkrybowanie. The lack of cohesion is evident in definitions of aranżacja and transkrypcja in Polish music encyclopaedias,6 from ←15 | 16→which it is difficult to determine which term has the broader semantic range and whether transkrypcja...

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