Chopin and his Critics. An Anthology (1918-1939) represents the continuation of the volume covering the period up to the First World War (two editions, Polish and foreign-language, 2011) and the same geographical area: Poland, Russia (USSR), Germany, France and the UK. Although it concerns only the twenty-year period between the two world wars, the material is rich and covers a wide range of issues. The aesthetic appraisal of Chopin's music became much more profound, thanks partly to the development of musicology, which gave rise to biographical research, the first edition of the composer's letters and analysis of his style, particularly in terms of melody and harmony. On a par with Beethoven and Wagner, Chopin came to be seen as one of the greatest composers, who revolutionised the music of the nineteenth century. The Germans called him a spirit akin to Bach, the French a precursor of modernism, the British noted his Classical mastery of technique, and the Poles and Russians emphasised his nationality, as well as the wealth of universal values.
This was a period abounding in anniversaries and initiatives commemorating Chopin and his music, to name but the launch of the Chopin Competition (1927), editions of the Complete Works, the rebuilding of Chopin's birthplace in Żelazowa Wola, the erection of the Chopin monument in Warsaw (1926), plaques in Dresden (1935) and grand exhibitions at the Bibliothèque Polonaise in Paris (1932, 1937). On one hand, cycles of Chopin's Preludes and Etudes began to be performed, sometimes even together in a single concert, and lectures and readings devoted mainly to the composer's biography were organised. At the same time, Chopin's music began to infiltrate broad social circles, entering film, popular stage works and ballet, leading to jazz arrangements and ‘hit' reworkings, which sometimes drew protests against the deformation of great art.
Unfortunately, Chopin's image also began to be politicised, especially in the USSR, where the composer began to be interpreted in the spirit of ‘decadent bourgeois culture', whilst in Germany during the 30s one could speak of attempts at ‘de-Polonising' Chopin, in order to impart to him the spirit of German culture. There was also no lack of individual voices of Chopin criticism in other countries. This broad panoply of interpretations is extremely interesting and stimulating for cultural reflection.
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