Chopin Piano Music

Chopin Variations Brillantes op.12; Bolero in C, op.19; Tarantella in A flat, op.43; Allegro de concert in A, op.46; Fantasy in F minor, op.49; Berceuse in D fiat, op.57; Barcarolle in F sharp, op.60; 3 Ecossaises op.72 no.3; Variations on a Swiss Air (ed. E. Herttrich). Henle/Novello


Henle's editorial policy here seems somewhat eccentric. For interested parties, the preface explains, a comprehensive Kritischer Berichtis preserved in the firm's archives and 'may be had on request'. Before long we'll just be buying the cover and sending away to Munich for the music. For the moment, however, purchasers of this collection of separates (Bolero, Barcarolle etc) at least gets a selection of the most important variants among the sources. But even this information takes the form of a pull-out supplement, as if scholarship had no permanent place in an Urtext edition. From the separate issues of op.49 and op.57, all these data have been pulled out altogether. If all you want is the Berceuse, for example, Henle assume that you won't be bothering about the textual details. Why, in that event, you should bother to buy their Urtext edition is a question which perhaps they haven't yet quite thought through. Not that the editorial preface is any great loss. It merely offers a meagre 250 words, in three languages (the English version just as slack as ever). Along with the customary acknowledgments to ms owners, loaners and donors, it finds space to share the discovery that most of Chopin's other piano music falls into categories such as nocturnes and polonaises. Needless to say, the opportunity to provide real interest, novelty and value by including the other miscellaneous piano pieces has been as comprehensively neglected as those works themselves.

    Yet Henle have a surprise up their sleeve. The disposable Bericht turns out to be indispensable. It may not offer much in the way of textual correction to standard editions (a left-hand E missing from the first chord of the penultimate bar of the Bolero, for example, is all I can find wrong even in the older Peters); but it certainly serves to show how many of the accepted markings and instructions for performance are mere editorial accretion without the faintest factual justification. In the Klindworth-Scharwenka version of op.49 for example the designation “fantasy” seems, on this evidence, fully as applicable to the editing as to the music. Henle's detailed source-reporting here is a model of careful collation and abridgment and it yields a clear uncluttered text which is a pleasure to read through and play from. It's sad to see such good work spoilt by such uninspired presentation.       


The Musical Times, Feb. 1980 (p. 108) © the estate of eric sams