"Chopin In Performance: History, Theory, Practice"IV International Conference "Chopin In Performance: History, Theory, Practice"IV International Conference

The National Library, conference room no. 200
Warsaw, 2-4 December 2004




Thursday 2 XII 2004 Opening of the Conference
14:00 Prof. Irena Poniatowska, Prof. John Rink Opening of the Conference

Defining an aesthetic: HISTORICIZING Chopin performance

  • 14:30 Prof. Zbigniew Skowron (Warszawa) Creating a legend or reporting facts? Chopin as performer in the biographical accounts of F. Liszt, M. A. Szulc, and F. Niecks
  • 15:00 Prof. Jonathan Bellman (Greeley, Colorado) Toward a Well-Tempered Chopin
  • 15:30 Coffee break
  • 16:00 Prof. Claudia Colombati (Roma) Performance of the Chopin Work as an Aesthetic and Historic issue
  • 16:30 Prof. Benjamin Vogel (Lund) Young Chopin’s Domestic Pianos
  • 17:00 Discussion

19:00 Concert
Witold Lutosławski Polish Radio Concert Studio
Stanley Hoogland - presentation - old pianos

Music by: Field, Alkan, Chopin


Friday 3 XII 2004
Chopin’s performances: interpreting the evidence

  • 9:00 Prof. Jeffrey Kallberg (Philadephia) Con duolo: On Chopin’s soul
  • 9:30 Prof. Hartmuth Kinzler (Osnabrück) Towards the reconstruction of Chopin’s own theory of pedaling
  • 10:00 Coffee break
  • 10:30 Martin S. Hansen (Osnabrück) Some questions concerning Chopin’s pedal indications in his Preludes Op. 28. A performer’s look at the manuscript
  • 11:00 Prof. Regina Smendzianka (Warszawa) Piano works by Chopin’s predecessors (Michał Kleofas Ogiński, Maria Szymanowska) and their influence on the interpretation of Chopin’s early pieces
  • 11:30 Discussion
  • 12:30 Lunch brea
  • 14:30 Prof. Jan Ekier (Warszawa) Working on the National Edition – four communiqués
  • 15:00 Prof. Kazimierz Morski (Roma) The interpretation of Chopin’s works: comparative analysis of different styles of performance
  • 15:30 Coffee break


  • 16:00 Prof. David Rowland (London) The performance of Chopin’s works for piano and orchestra
  • 16:30 Prof. Mieczysław Tomaszewski (Kraków) The D flat Major Nocturne and the genesis of resonance in performance
  • 17:00 Discussion

19:00 Concert
Witold Lutosławski Polish Radio Concert Studio
Viviana Sofronitzki - Piano Recital

Music by: Mozart, Ogiński, Kurpiński, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Chopin


Saturday 4 XII 2004
Chopin performance in history

  • 9:00 Prof. Irena Poniatowska (Warszawa) Towards the methodics of performance of Chopin’s Etudes Op.10
  • 9:30 Prof. John Rink (London) Chopin, Arrau and the technique of performance
  • 10:00 Prof. Lidia Kozubek (Warszawa) Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and pedagogy
  • 10:30 Coffee break
  • 11:00 Prof. Irina Nikolska (Moskwa) Russian traditions of performing Chopin’s works
  • 11:30 Wojciech Bońkowski (Warszawa) Vladimir Horowitz, or ’bad’ Chopin playing
  • 12:00 Prof. Thomas Kabisch (Trossingen) From the "Éditions de travail des oeuvres de Chopin" to the "Principes rationnels de la technique pianistique". Alfred Cortot on playing Chopin and the principles of playing the piano
  • 12:30 Discussion
  • 13:30 Lunch break

Analytical approaches to the performance of Chopin

  • 14:30 Prof. Wojciech Nowik (Warszawa) Expression of form and the form of expression. Berceuse Op. 57 in the interpretation by Józef Hofmann
  • 15:00 Prof. Krystyna Juszyńska (Łódź) and Piotr Rogowski (Warszawa) Berceuse op. 57: an acoustic analysis of Józef Hofmann recordings
  • 15:30 Coffee break
  • 16:00 Marcin Strzelecki (Kraków) Tracking psycho-acoustical features in performances of Chopin
  • 16:20 Michał Podolak (Poznań) The Multidimensionality of Phonographic Recording. Admist the fabric of intention: composer, musician and the baton of the sound engineer
  • 16:40 Dr. Krzysztof Rottermund (Berlin) Transcriptions of pieces by Chopin for harmonium: ‘Hausmusik’ in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • 17:00 Discussion
  • 17:30 Final Discussion. Presentation of the NIFC plans

4th Conference: Chopin in Performance History, Theory, Practice.

Warsaw, 2-4 December 2004

The topic of the conference attracted a lot of attention from musicians and musicologists, as did the accompanying concerts on period instruments. The twenty-one speakers from Poland, Germany, Italy, England and Russia presented papers in four thematic areas: 1. Defining an aesthetic of performance; 2. Chopin’s performances: interpreting the evidence; 3. Chopin performance in history; and 4. Analytical approaches to the performance of Chopin.

Papers on the aesthetic of performance included a presentation illustrated with accounts of Chopin’s performances found in the biographies by F. Liszt, M. A. Szulc and F. Niecks (Z. Skowron), an aesthetic and historical study of the performances of Chopin’s music (C. Colombati), some information about young Chopin’s pianos (B. Vogel) and the problem of the tuning system of Chopin’s pianos (studied for the first time by J. Bellman) – did Chopin used a “wohltemperierte Klavier”, or was it perhaps a subtly non-tempered instrument? Also, in the light of Roman Ingarden’s theory of the intentional existence of a musical work, the question came up repeatedly whether Chopin’s own performance could be regarded as “ideal” if each work can rightfully go through an infinite number of “sound realizations”?

Interpretation of the evidence of Chopin’s performances comprised such issues as reconstructing Chopin’s pedal-work (H. Kinzler), especially as interpreted by the performer in the Preludes (M. S. Hansen), an overview of interpreting styles of Chopin’s music (K. Morski), also focusing on orchestral performances (D. Rowland). J. Rink tackled the fascinating issue of Chopin’s interpretation marks such as con duolo or con anima, as seen in the contemporary context, which led the author to speculate about Chopin’s soul (paper published in this issue of Chopin in the World). M. Tomaszewski offered a comprehensive analysis of the Nocturne in D-flat major from its origins through reception and performance. Prof. Jan Ekier, chief editor of the National Edition of Chopin’s complete works, gave his paper in the same thematic group, pointing out that contrary to the prevailing belief, the manuscript of the Polonaise in B-flat major is not recorded in the hand of W. Żywny or Mikołaj Chopin but it was in fact drafted by J. Elsner, with the title page written partly by Elsner and partly by Chopin himself. Based on comprehensive research of Chopin’s musical text, Prof. Ekier also wondered whether the famous French horn phrase in the coda of the Concerto in F minor was not in fact meant to be performed by an instrument known as cor de signal.

In the thematic group “Chopin Performance in History”, I. Poniatowska presented some problems of studying the performing method using a special edition of exercices for the Etudes, Op. 10 as an example. L. Kozubek presented the teaching methods of Artur Benedetti Michelangeli, and I. Nikolska offered a synthetic presentation of the Russian styles of Chopin performance, constituting a rich tradition dating back to S. Richter and E. Gilels. W. Bońkowski discussed V. Horowitz’s “wrong” performance as an instance of the problem of performance evaluation. A difficult and complex process, any appraisal of a performance must take into account more than just fidelity to recorded musical text or conformity with the general aesthetic of Chopin performance. It must likewise account for aspects of anthropology of culture and psychology as well as for the context of a particular performance.

The last group of papers concentrated on such topics as form and expression in the Barceuse in the performances of J. Hoffmann (W. Nowik), with further reference to the same topic from K.Juszyńska and P. Rogowski, who had carried out an acoustic analysis of three of Hoffmann’s performances of the piece over the years. The next two papers were devoted to psycho-acoustic studies of Chopin’s music (M. Strzelecki) and the multi-dimensionality of phonographic recordings (M. Podolak). New research methods are opening up for the students of performance in the form of sound recordings, i.e. electro-acoustic text. Still in its early stages, it was emphasised that this type of research is nonetheless more advanced in Poland than elsewhere in the world. However, visual representations of music or the so-called spectrograms must still be regarded with a degree of scepticism in musical analysis. Though useful for making comparisons, at the present stage (where visualization is mainly possible for dynamic or agogic analysis) they may be in fact quite similar to spectrograms of spoken utterances. This means that whatever the description may gain in terms of precision, it lacks in terms of musical sensitivity. Also, recordings are strongly influenced by the role played by the sound engineer, potentially leading to a situation where different recordings of the same performance may betray dynamic differences. The conference was closed with a paper on harmonium transcripts of Chopin’s music – an instrument which enjoyed a great popularity in America in the second half of the 19th century (K. Rottermund).

The conference and discussions were accompanied by concerts on period instruments. The Chopin Institute has been able to furnish for the conference copies of a 1792 Anton Walter and an 1819 Conrad Graf (both built by P. McNulty) as well as an 1848 Pleyel. Also available was the Institute’s own 1849 Erard. Stanley Hoogland, Piet Kuijken and Viviana Sofronitzki performed pieces by Mozart, M. K. Ogiński, J. Kurpiński, Schubert, Mendelssohn, J. Field, Ch. V. Alkan and Chopin. For the first time in Poland, it was possible to compare the sound of different pianos from the period of the instrument’s fast-paced evolution. The sound of the Pleyel piano (Chopin’s favourite make) was particularly beautiful.

Irena Poniatowska

Chopin in the World 2005

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