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Nineteenth-Century Transcriptions of Works by Fryderyk Chopin

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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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2 Composers, publishers and receivers: transcriptions of works by Chopin in nineteenth-century cultural communication

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The aim of this chapter is to forge a picture of the musical reception of Chopin through the form of transcription in nineteenth-century European musical culture. That aim will be served by resolving many detailed questions. Transcriptions as the subject of historical research will be closely profiled in terms of quantity and quality and will be described as a subject of compositional work, an object of publishing work and a ‘product’ with its ‘consumers’ – performers, listeners and reviewers. The quantitative profile will show the scale of transcribing and reveal certain preferences in the choice of original compositions. The aim of the further considerations will be to obtain answers to a number of questions. Who composed the transcriptions – what class of musicians? Was the quality of their musical training reflected in the quality of the transcriptions they produced? One issue of crucial importance to the cultural scope and dimensions of Chopin’s musical reception will be to determine the place of transcriptions in the publishing market. We can resolve that issue by answering detailed questions. Which publishers popularised transcriptions? How many copies did they print? Another issue that needs resolving is that of the legal conditions behind the practice of transcribing. Answers to these questions will enable us to determine the place of transcriptions in nineteenth-century publishing work and their legal status. In order to trace a picture of Chopin’s musical reception, its social context will be outlined. The ultimate question, which is the reception of his music, identified with...

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