"Analytical Perspectives on Chopin Music"III International Conference organized by NIFC "Analytical Perspectives on Chopin Music"III International Conference organized by NIFC

Warszawa, 5-6 grudnia 2003

One of the main projects of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute is the series of international conferences, began in 2001, and planned yearly up till the 2010, when the III International Congress (200 anniversary of Chopin’s birth) is planned.
The project’s aim is to point out different areas of the research into scholar’s consideration and to promote the Chopinian subjects among musicologists, sociologists, psychologists etc.
The conferences are addressed to the university researchers all over the Europe and also to the most talented students. Their aim is to coordinate research areas in different institutions, promoting particular areas of interest for following years. It will provide the time needed for particular researches to synchronise their work with others from different universities. The overall result of these 8 years of working together will be presented during the mentioned Congress in the 2010.

3rd Conference: Analytical Perspectives on the Music of Chopin

On 5-6 December 2003, the 3rd International Conference in Musicology took place at the Royal Palace in Warsaw. Organized by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, the event was titled Analytical Perspectives on the Music of Chopin (Twórczość Fryderyka Chopina w perspektywie koncepcji analitycznych). The conference focused on three different approaches to analytical issues: theoretical, methodological and historical.

The Conference was opened by an excellent paper presented by Jim Samson, one of the world’s greatest authorities in Chopin studies and methodology, and the academic advisor of the symposium. His paper, The Challenge to Analysis, provided a theoretical framework – including an epistemological framework – for that famously challenging combination of analysis and music. Analysis is systematic, scientific and reproducible. Art (especially performing art) is fleeting, irreproducible and intentional – it can only be recorded to a certain degree, it is subject to change over time. Therefore, analysing music is a serious challenge – a challenge that theory is taking up with an growing degree of success but can never hope to meet fully.

The first session, Chopin’s work as seen in different analytical systems, focused on general issues. The issues covered during the session were a kind of overview of the different methods in which Chopin’s works have been analysed and described in musical historiography. After a survey paper (Bertil Wikman), Mieczysław Tomaszewski (Music of Chopin in the Context of “Integral Method”) presented the concept of an “integral” approach to a musical work. This concept combines analysis of the work’s musical content, critical analysis of style, historical analysis and hermeneutics. In this kind of approach, it is possible to transcend the narrow limitations of presenting a musical work within the framework of a single scholarly approach. Although obviously attractive, the integral concept is difficult to formulate at present as a unified academic method complying with such scholarly requirements as clearly formulated initial assumptions, well-defined procedures or criteria for the verification of conclusions. Still, the approach offers new possibilities and challenges for the theory of music. The next paper (Andrzej Tuchowski) outlined the achievements of one of the most important currents in 20th-century analytical Chopin studies: Schenkerian analysis and the so-called post-Schenkerian methods. The former, fundamental in studying harmony in Anglo-Saxon countries, was somewhat marginalized on the Continent. Eventually, it yielded a number of individual analytical approaches which differed slightly in detail but were unified by the shared method known as the reductive approach. The session closed with some philosophical and aesthetic reflection on Chopin’s work (Claudia Colombati), and analysis of the relations between his compositions and the artist’s attitude to the system of values (Anna Koszewska).

The second session – Chopin Analysis in Practice – was an overview of individual analytical methods used in the musicology of today, some examples of their application for the study of works by Chopin, and the kind of information that they can yield. As part of the session, new methods for studying Chopin’s works have been presented, and a series of postulates were put forward regarding possible expansion of the scope of research. Preliminary papers focused on selected elements of music, such as rhythmical elements (John Rink - Analyzing Rhythmic Shape in Chopin’s E major Etude) or metrics and hypermetrics (Harald Krebs - Metric and Hypermetric Disturbances in the Ballade in A flat, op. 47). Then, novel outlooks on musical analysis were presented: z computer-aided musical analysis (Iwona Lindstedt) and analysis using the specific properties of tonal melody (Artur Szklener). Also, experimental results were presented for a synthesis of several methods which have been used in separation heretofore (Bengt Edlund and Artur Szklener).

The last session – History of the Interpretation of Chopin’s Music – focussed on a historical overview of the methods of analysis and description of Chopin’s music (Wojciech Nowik, Irena Poniatowska, Joachim Draheim). Chopin’s pieces triggered emotions already at their premiere performances. Chopin’s work was reflected and commented on by such musical personages as Robert Schumann or Ferenc Liszt, but also by various philosophers, writers, artists and other representatives of the contemporary cultural circles. Their studies – totally different from the analytical work of today – give an insight into what Chopin’s music was to his contemporaries, and provide a glimpse of its meaning to the composer himself, and of its position within the cultural life of the first half of the 19th century. By confronting the opinions of eye witnesses with modern theory and analysis we can arrive at a more complete and comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon of Chopin’s music.

One of the general conclusions of the conference focused on the ongoing change in the approach to musical analysis. After the 19th-century aesthetic and philosophical reflection and the 20th-century precise and sharply focused analytical methods, we are now witnessing clear signs of a new shift in the approach to analysing Chopin’s works. This new stage is characterised by integration of various analytical methods to arrive at a more comprehensive outlook, and provide a more adequate and complete description of a piece. This new approach should help to understand the essence of Chopin’s genius, bringing us closed to unravelling the mystery of artistic activity as such.

Artur Szklener

Chopin in the World 2005