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Tradition / Reception / Musical editorship / Audio publications



The fascinating beginnings of Chopin's discography


The phonograph and Edison's playing cylinders
Berliner's records
Victor Records
Player piano
Great musicians in the recording studio
Some statistics


For Chopin's discography everything was to begin in 1903.  Spanish pianist Joaquin Malats (1872-1912) then played the Waltz in C sharp minor Op. 64 no. 2 on Edison's cylinder.  Works recorded at nearly the same time (by then on flat records - Emil Berliner's patent) included: Polonaise in A major Op. 40 no. 1 played by Józef Hofmann (1876- 1957), Nocturne in D flat major, Op. 27 no. 2 played by Louis Diemer (1843-1919) and the Berceuse Op. 57,  Impromptu in A flat major Op. 29, Nocturne in F sharp major Op. 15 no. 2, Waltz in A flat major Op. 34, no. 1, played by Raoul Pugno (1852-1914), all recorded by the British firm "Gramophone & Typewriter Ltd". The records of Vladimir de Pachmann come from the same year: Étude in B minor, Op. 25 no. 10, Waltz in C sharp minor Op. 64 no.2 and the Waltz in D flat major Op. 64 no.1 (also for G&T). These were the first recordings of Chopin's works most frequently mentioned in sources. Of course this concerns the recording of piano works, because it turns out that two years earlier, in 1901, the German singer Katherina Senger-Bettaque, made a record of the song, A Wish.  

When inventive thought bestowed humanity a gift in the form of sound recording devices, for music, more precisely for the act of musical performance, this was a turning point of the era. It suddenly turned out, that what was previously very elusive, was finally "stopped in time", to return to it repeatedly. The ability to fix this, made the transience of the moment something objectively permanent.

After more than one hundred years of associating with this phenomenon, we still cannot find an answer to several burning questions, such as the impact of phonography on the style of performance, the problem of infinite editing possibilities, or "preparing" recordings in the studio, and as a result - juxtaposing live recordings to studio recordings, the issue of easy access to almost all of them, and because of this, the very thorough, even laboratory study of them for various needs, etc.

It is not our intention to pose these questions, or even more so to search for their answers. At best we would like to point to several threads that a person might run into, maybe for the first time, in the area of Chopin phonography, and subsequently - discography.



To start with, several terms used in this paper warrant clear demarcation. Let's start with phonograpy, being the main subject of our interest- subject matter, the starting point, which discography then takes up.

Phonography is the huge area dealing with recording techniques and the possibilities for playing back sound. There are several scopes of knowledge contained therein. On the one hand, these concern scientific specializations associated with physics, electronics, information technology systems, and acoustics, on the other hand definite associations with the area of artistic activity.  No one other than the sound producer contributes so much to the final vision of a phonographic work. His or her creation of the auditory side of a recorded musical work can have a significant impact on the final effect - on the quality of what we hear from the recording.


The phonograph and Edison's playing cylinders

The phonograph has a long and rich history. Its beginnings date back to 1878, when Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) patented the phonograph. Its turbulent development followed, which we are not going to describe separately because the topic naturally tracks inventions that kept improving, associated with the recording and playback of recorded music.

After the period of discovery and inventions, nota bene, frequently much earlier than Edison's phonograph, phonograpy quickly expanded.  It was earlier understood that the availability and distribution of recordings by legendary artists could produce huge profits. Edison's cylinders, since the first carriers of sound recording had this form (hence their name), started to enter wide circulation. 

In 1998 the American Graphophone Company began to manufacture cylindrical recordings and phonographs. This same year the Edison Phonograph Company is founded. It sought exclusivity by virtue of  rights to the invention. This led to a war against the competitors, who took advantage of the market economics of Edison's patent, not entirely in a fair manner. .

The manufacture of recordings on an increasingly wider scale, becomes a fact. Did the constantly growing catalog of cylindrical recordings also contain registrations of Chopin's works? Due to the lack of access to complete catalogs, this is difficult to determine. It is certain that initially singers were preferred (in part due to the great sound dynamics), so pianists were rather not taken into consideration. On the other hand, it is known that the excellent Polish Chopinist Józef Hofmann (1876-1957) was keenly interested in Thomas Edison's work. Did he record even one Edison cylinder? Surely that was the case. In March 1888, when Edison was still perfecting the prototype of his phonograph, twelve-year old Józio Hofmann provided assistance. Several years later he was supposed to get a package with a cylinder containing the then experiments. What was recorded on this cylinder? What happened to it later? We don't know, which doesn't change the fact that in light of this information, Józef Hofmann would be the first known musician in history to record music on a permanent sound carrier.


Berliner's records

Emil Berliner (1851-1929) started to manufacture his recordings in 1889. By then other sound recording carriers existed - not cylinders, but flat discs. Since he was working in the American market, where Edison, holding a dominant position, rigorously guarded his patent, these two precursors to phonography was destined to a conflict, ending up in court. Ultimately, Berliner was eliminated from the American market, which forced him to look to Europe. As a result, at his initiative the Gramaphone Co. was founded in 1898 in Great  Britain, and following in these footsteps - the Deutsche Grammophone AG in Germany. Branches were also set up elsewhere (including Russia and Austria).

More or less since that time, one can speak not only of the beginnings of phonography, but also the founding of the phonographic industry with mechanisms typical for business. To increase economic effectiveness and fight off the  competition, the founding of true corporations began with the merger of small firms.


Victor Records

In America, after extremely complex legal-court disputes, Victor Records (1900-1929) emerged out of the pioneering manufacturers that were founded at the time of Edison's phonograph. Since it owned applications to the technological solutions introduced by Berliner (this was made possible since the business of several firms was merged), Victor Records conquered the market by the quality of its recordings and the high standard of playing equipment (at the time).  This record company hired the biggest stars. Enrico Caruso had the biggest "hit" recordings of Victor Records during this time. He recorded with them for sixteen years (1904-1920). The then released "Red Seal" series - signed by the greatest names, including Caruso himself - was a sign of the highest quality.

In addition to this famous tenor, those recording for Victor Records, included such legendary artists like: Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler, and Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873- 1943).  It was Rachmaninoff who recorded his memorial interpretations of Chopin's works for Victor, with the Sonata in B flat minor, op. 35 at the forefront, maintaining an exclusive contract with them for more than twenty years (1920-1942). This does not at all mean that all his Chopin recordings we know of come from there.  Prior to this, in 1919, Rachmaninoff recorded two Waltzes on Edison's cylinders: A flat major, op. 42 and A flat major, op. 64 no. 3. Nevertheless, he wasn't happy with the final result, and direct contacts with the firm were not easy. His later recordings took place at the studio in Camden - New Jersey, belonging to Victor. We shall mention a few statistics about the achievements of the American Victor Records company.

In 1990, the then famous Sousa's Band was to record the Waltz in A flat major, op. 64, no. 3 and then the Polonaise in A major, op. 40, no. 1 From 1900-1903 we can note successive recordings of the "Minute" Waltz, but for a solo flute. Of course the Funeral March shows up performed by various orchestras, as well as the "cello" Nocturne in E flat major, op. 9 no. 2 in the flutist's interpretation, as well as his clarinet version. There was still a lack of piano recordings, in that the strength of this instrument is still too weak to set in to motion the proper vibrations of the acoustical tube's membrane, and subsequently the etching needle cutting out the grove on the right surface, for example, wax.

Marcelina Sembrich-Kochańska (188-1935) recorded the song Wish in 1904 for Victor. She repeated this recording in 1907. These are extremely beautiful and important phonographic documents of our great singer. The first pianist figuring on the list of Chopin players for Victor was Frank La Forge - a chamber musician and accompanist to singers, who recorded the Nocturne in D flat major, op. 27. no. 2, and the Ballade in A flat major, op. 47,  in 1907.  He remained the only performer of Chopin's works for this record company for quite some time, until Vladimir de Pachmann showed up in 1911.


Player piano

As everybody knows, in the pioneer years of phonography, the recording of pianists took place in an acoustic manner, and also in a so-called player piano system. Playback was based on mechanical reproduction without the pianist's participation, using a pneumatic device that set the piano's keyboard into motion. Earlier, in the studio, based on the pianist's playing, engineers perforated a paper roll. This functioned as a kind of "program" when placed in the playback device, according to which particular keys were struck. In this manner an entire work could be played back.  Nevertheless, were the nuances of interpretation characteristic of the great pianists faithfully conveyed?  Doubts remain here, especially considering that researchers of the performance style skip over player piano recordings. Nevertheless, this doesn't change the fact that nearly every pianist at the time encountered this system.  Rachmaninof also attempted to register his performances for the flourishing American Piano Company (Ampico). From Chopin's repertory, three works ended up on rolls:  Waltz in E flat major, op. 18, Waltz in F major, op. 34 no. 3 and Chopin's A Wish  transcribed by Liszt. Supposedly, there were supposed to be more of these recordings, but no one encountered them later. Why? Maybe this was the decision of the artist himself, who decided not to publish them for some reason. Although the player piano rolls remain valuable mementos with the names of legendary pianists, barely preserve part of what, the art of splendid interpreters of piano music had in itself, including Chopin's music.


Great musicians in the recording studio

Let's return to acoustic recordings. Rachmaninof was not the only artist to record Chopin's music for Victor Records. Alfred Cortot (1877-1962) started working with the company a year before Rachmaninof, making the following records in 1919, Berceuse in D flat major, op. 57, Tarantella in A flat major, op. 43, Funeral march from the Sonata in B flat minor, Étude in G flat major, op. 10 no. 5 and the finale to both Sonatas (B flat minor, op. 35 and B minor, op. 58). This cooperation lasted until 1925 and brought several other positions, though Cortot started work on his main work, nearly the complete works of Chopin, later - then in Europe and for another record company. He deemed that the short period during which Duo-Art and Ampico rolls were in use, was unreliable in relation to what could be achieved with acoustic recording, that is through a tube.

The Victor Records catalog also features recordings of several outstanding Chopin musicians. Vladimir de Pachmann (1948-1933) appeared in the Camden, New Jersey studios as early as 1911.  First to record Nocturne in F major, op. 15 no. 1, Prelude in D minor, op. 28 no. 24, Impromptu in A flat major, op. 29, Étude in C major, op. 10 no. 1, two Mazurkas: A flat major, op. 50 no. 2 and A minor, op. 67 no. 4, the Waltz in C sharp minor, op. 64 no. 2.  His next set of recordings included: Nocturne in E flat major, op. 55 no. 2, Berceuse in D flat major, op. 57, Polonaise in C sharp minor, op. 26 no. 1, Ballade in A flat major, op. 47, Prelude in D flat major, op. 28 no. 15, Nocturne in G major, op. 37 no. and several minor forms. 

The earliest Chopin recordings of Józef Hofmann (1876-1957), with the Polonaise in A major, op. 40 no. 1 at the forefront, date back to 1903 and were made by Gramaphone and Typewriter. The technology used by the firm - the work of Emil Berliner - exceeded the quality of both the phonograph and Edison's cylindrical format. Surely this led to Hofmann's decision (a great perfectionist, since this also concerned sound quality) to chose G & T.

Even before he signed a preliminary contract with Columbia in 1912, he participated in working out the player piano rolls for the Welte-Mignon system. What's interesting is that Hofmann didn't shun this type of recording, maybe because of his nearly genius inventive talents. The increasingly complex player piano devices, associated with programming and the sound reproduction of musical works, must have fascinated him.  The collection of Hofmann's player piano recordings, especially for Duo-Art which had the latest technology, is rather impressive. Recordings made in the 1920s - Sonata in B minor, op. 58, Scherzo in B flat minor, op. 31 and the Scherzo in C sharp minor, op. 39, the Polonaise in A flat major, op. 53 - just to name those positions that would be difficult to record on four minute acoustic records. Nevertheless, these very records are important to us today, even though Hofmann, not entirely satisfied with their sound, made it understood that he rates the potential of Duo-Art higher in this regard.

From 1913-1918 Józef Hofmann visited Columbia recording studios seventeen times. Despite this, the effect was not the best at least in quantity terms. The pianist's requirements placed on the record makers was extremely high, thus difficult to meet. Hence, we only have a few of his Chopin records from that period: Waltz in A flat major, op. 34 no. 1, Waltz in C sharp minor, op. 64 no. 2, E minor, posthumously published, Polonaise in A major, op. 40, no. 1, Impromptu in A flat major, op. 29, Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, op. 66, Berceuse in D flat major, op. 57, Nocturne in E flat major, op. 9 no. 2, and the song The Wish by Chopin-Liszt. Despite the reservations of the artist himself, these records remain a lasting documents of Hofmann's fantastic pianism.

After the best experience with Columbia, Hofman decided to realize his next recordings at another American firm, third next to Victor and Columbia - Brunswick Records. Although classical music was not a priority there, it did collaborate with several outstanding pianists, such as Elly Ney and Leopold Godowski, as well as the outstanding Polish violinist Bronisław Hubermann. Hoffman recorded there from 1922 to 1923, in the last days of the acoustic system. It was even said that Hofmann left a wonderful testament on Brunswick records, speaking to the passing era of phonography and the acoustic tube.  It is hard not to agree with this, when we listen to: Scherzo in B minor,  op. 20 in the shortened version (still no longer than four minutes), Nocturne in F sharp major, op. 15 no. 2, Waltz in C sharp minor, op. 64, no. 2, Polonaise in A major, op. 40 no. 1 and the song The Wish, by Chopin-Liszt.

Ignacy Pan Paderewski (1860-1941) made the first acoustic recordings of Chopin's works in 1911. These are one of a kind, since the G&T crew had to set up shop in Morges for a week, near the Swiss estate of the master. Paderewski then played on his own Erard concert piano.  This was not his phonographic debut, since several years earlier he undertook player piano performances. First in 1905 he recorded several works for Welte-Mignon: Waltz in A flat major, op. 42, Polonaise in A major, op. 40 no. 1, Étude in G flat major, op. 25 no. 9. A year later he recorded the following for Aeolian Co.: Polonaise A flat major, op. 53, Nocturne G major, op. 37 no. 2, Ballade in A flat major, op. 47, Mazurka in D major, op. 33 no. 3 and several others. In the 1920s he also worked with Duo-Art,  that led to a magnificent collection, including: two Ballades: G minor, op. 23 and A flat major, op. 47, Scherzo in C sharp minor, op. 39, two Mazurkas: A minor, op. 17 no. 4 and B flat minor,  op. 24 no. 4, two Nocturnes, op. 48: C minor and F sharp minor.

In the recording period, Paderewski frequently showed up at the studios in Camden, New Jersey, Paris and New York. He was also a frequent quest of Abbey Road Studios in London, but after 1925, when electricity and microphones started to encroach on phonography.

Paderewski's acoustic recordings, besides many virtues, also have another one, they come from the period 1911-1925, from the great years of his piano playing. To take an overview about his legendary playing, one should first listen to precisely these recordings.  Definitely those from 1911, which - performed on the Erard piano - convey the only and unique atmosphere of Paderewski's style, which we can hear in three works recorded at the time: Nocturnes: F major and F sharp major,  op. 15 as well as E major, op. 62 no. 2, Waltz in C sharp minor, op. 64 no. 2 and the Waltz in A flat major, op. 34 no. 1.

In 1912 Paderewski recorded in Paris and London: Berceuse in D flat major, op. 57, several Études: E major, op. 10 no. 3, C major, op. 10 no. 7, C minor, op. 10 no. 12, A flat major, op. 25 no. 1, F minor, op. 25 no. 2, C sharp minor, op. 25, no. 7, G flat major, op. 25 no. 9, Mazurka in A minor, op. 17 no. 4, Waltz in A flat major, op. 34, no. 1. The next two sessions (in 1917 and 1922) took place in New York and resulted in several successive recordings with Chopin's works (Waltz in C sharp minor, op. 64 no. 2, Étude in G flat major, op. 25 no. 9, Waltz in A flat major, op. 42 and once again the Berceuse in D flat major, op. 57, perhaps the most beautiful of all his record interpretations. The same can be said about the Waltz in C sharp minor. It is evident that Paderewski, as well as other pianists, frequently recorded the same works, surely caused by listener expectations, though also care to obtain the best possible quality through experience and ever better equipped recording studios. We should remember that at this time there was no possibility to replace less successful fragments. Twice, in 1923 and 1924, Paderewski played in Camden- New Jersey, among others, two Mazurkas: A minor, op. 17 no. 4 and F sharp minor, op. 59 no. 3. These are incomparably beautiful interpretations, full of lyricism and hues of sound subtleties, though they were tube recordings. Later, microphone recordings, did not convey this beauty. Starting in 1925, Paderewski started recording with a new technology for the new firms: His Master's Voice and RCA Victor. The time of Edison's phonograph and tube type records had passed, replaced by new technologies. The microphone also meant a new "electric" means of recording and what is important - conveyance of sound, at the same time the possibility for broadcasting. Music could be listened to not just from records, but from broadcasting equipment, or the radio. This growing medium etched its place in the new history of phonography.



Phonography in Europe, with interests common to America as to using Berliner's patent, was strongly associated with firms active across the ocean, where Victor Records and Columbia Phonograph -Gramophone Co. really got this new industry going. Its first chapter, ending in a success, turned out ... the dog Nipper, listening to "His Master's Voice" coming out of the gramophone tube. In 1907 the dog started to show up on records of cooperating firms, Victor and Columbia, as a mark of the highest quality. In Europe, similarly to American, the strengths were combined. Given everything that was happening in the mid 1920s, traditional firms had to restructure. Those that did best combined their activity with radio organizations, an example of which is EMI - a huge player in international phonography since 1931.

Before this happened though, Emil Berliner found partners in England for the firm they set up in 1898, UK Gramophone Co., could start work on introducing a new product to the market. In 1900, it expanded its scope, operating over the next few years under the name Gramophone & Typewriter Ltd. This was a very important moment for pianists and recording works on records, including Chopin's  "G & T" had excellent insight as to who should be recorded. Hence many truly unique positions were found on its records, like the 1905 recording in Warsaw by Aleksander Michałowski (1851-1938). It remains to the present an invaluable document of the most wonderful traditions of the Polish Chopin players. These recordings include: Polonaise in A major, op. 40 no. 1, Nocturne in E flat major, op. 9 no. 2, Prelude in A major, op. 28 no. 7, Prelude in C minor, op. 28 no. 20, Waltz in D flat major, op. 64 no. 1, Étude in G flat major, op. 10 no. 5, Funeral March from the Sonata in B flat minor op. 35.

The most outstanding interpretors played Chopin's works for "G & T".  Others in this elite group besides Michałowski included:  Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Józef Hofmann, Wilhelm Backhaus, Vladimir de Pachmann, Raoul Pugno and Louis Diemer. That last one was deemed as one of the creators of the French piano school.  In 1904 he recorded the Nocturne in D flat major, op. 27 no. 2, surely in the manner of former, XIX century masters, but in a sound that is difficult to find a trace of today. Diemer had several outstanding students: Alfred Cortot, Robert Casadesus, Lazare-Lévy, Edouard Riesler, Robert Lortat, also highly distinguished in the area of playing Chopin. Alfred Cortot's achievements are well known. On the other hand, not too many people still remember that Riesler possessed all Chopin's solo works in his repertory. Lortat, in turn, performed them publicly in 1912, in a series of six recitals.


Some statistics

Desiring to briefly summarize the early years of achievements in phonography development, we shall cite a few statistics. More than 80 different works of Chopin were recorded on acoustic records, in some 300 different performances. They were copied of course, for commercial purposes.  How many copies were sold? Surely in the tens of millions. The player piano recordings contained a much more extensive repertory, covering about 120 of Chopin's compositions in nearly 400 different performances. The most frequent recordings included: Étude in G flat major, op. 25 no. 9 (10 various pianists); Nocturne in F sharp major, op. 15 no. 2 (9), Berceuse D flat major, op. 57 (8), Polonaise in A flat major,  op. 53 (6). Other works that were highly popular: Nocturne in G major, op. 37 no. 2.  Nowadays it's very rarely played at recitals, though seven different performers then reached for it. The Allegro de  Concert, op. 46 and Bolero op. 19 twice, with the participation of Artur Schnabel and Emil von Sauer, were also recorded for the player piano system

The list of pianists invited by the piano player firms to record Chopin' works was enormous (about 100 persons) and impressive in terms of their renown. They were all the great talents of the piano world at the time, including: Wilhelm Backhaus, Harold Bauer, Aleksander Brailovsky, Ferruccio Busoni, Teresa Carreño, Alfred Cortot, Eugene d'Albert, Ernst von Dohnànyi, Annette Essipov, Carl Friedberg, Ignacy Friedman, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, Leopold Godowsky, Percy Grainger, Alfred Grünfeld, Mark Hambourg, Józef Hofmann, Maryla Jonas, Alexander Lambert, Frederic Lamond, Wanda Landowska, Mischa Levitzki, Teodor Leszetycki, Joseph Lhevinne, Mieczysław Münz, Vianna da Motta, Guiomar Novaes, Vladimir de Pachmann, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Francis Planté, Raoul Pugno, Sergiusz Rachmaninow, Alfred Reisenauer, Nadia Reisenberg, Maurycy Rosenthal, Artur Rubinstein, Camille Saint-Saëns, Olga Samaroff, Vassily Sapelnikov, Emil von Sauer, Xaver Scharvenka, Ernst Schelling, Artur Schnabel, Rudolf Serkin, Józef Śliwiński, Bernard Stavenhagen and Antonina Szumowska.

For comparison, it is worth citing the list of pianists who played Chopin's works in acoustic studios. They included: Wilhelm Backhaus, Ferruccio Busoni, Alfred Cortot, Eugene d'Albert, Louis Diemer, Ignacy Friedman, Walter Gieseking, Leopold Godowski, Percy Grainger, Mark Hambourg, Józef Hofmann, Raoul Koczalski, Mischa Levitzki, Aleksander Michałowski, Benno Moiseiwitsch, Vladimir de Pachman, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Sergiusz Rachmaninow, Edouard Risler, Maurycy Rosenthal, Olga Samaroff, Irène Scharrer and Xaver Scharwenka.



Lifted to the ranks of big industry, phonography had to be supported by various informational and marketing -advertising "tools", among which catalogs of released and distributed positions played a very important, even primary role. Hence discography was founded, or an area, and let's call it "trade", first dealing with the description of new record releases. Descriptions that would meet encyclopedic or lexicon standards came slightly later, when, in addition to preparing statistical lists, the characteristics of musical works and biographical information concerning the composer and performers were included.

The previous works devoted to Chopin's discography that deserve mention, include  L'œuvre de Frédéric Chopin - Discographie générale released in 1949 and published by Editions de la Revue Disques in Paris, by Armand Panigel, who worked on it with a group of colleagues in performance of a UNESCO contract. Nevertheless, this ends in 1950. Meaning on 78 rpm records,  that is, closer to the beginnings of an area that was just beginning to pick up momentum and in time, transform itself into a big industry.  The technological change in the production for recording carriers was the main impetus for this, specifically the switch from shellac standard records to vinyl microgroove ones. 

All the recordings that were made up to 1950, came to be called historical recordings. Józef Kański took care of them, preparing Dyskografia chopinowska - Historyczny katalog nagrań płytowych (1986) for publication by the  Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne i Towarzystwo im. Fryderyka Chopina. The introduction reads: "This catalog - in contract to registers of topical phonographic production - is a historical catalog. It lists recordings since 1901 until the beginning of the age of LP records, or about 1950, of course with rather numerous exceptions exceeding the then time limit".



As much as historical recordings led to discographic elaborations, the matter of discography of more contemporary recordings, that is long-playing records and CDs, remains open. Present information about current products can be found in the catalogs of particular firms, or in specialized magazines, particularly in the Internet. Specialized catalogs, like Schwann (later Schwann Opus), Gramaphone or Bielefelder, provide valuable information, largely for commercial purposes.

The first mentioned, William Joseph Schwann's Catalog (1913 -1998), showed up along with long-playing records (1949) at first, as a listing of positions available at the store he ran in Boston with the first long-playing records. There were 674 records (on 26 pages), including several of the first Chopin records. Which ones? Right now, his is not easy to determine. These were the beginnings of Schwann's efforts to create an extensive informational-commercial database about classical music records, including, of course, Fryderyk Chopin's music that interests us. In addition to information about particular recordings, later editions of the Catalog, continually updated (quarterly, annually), includes announcements about new positions, as well as problem articles or interviews with artists.

As new sound recording technologies were developed, followed by its carriers (CD), catalog publishers strived, though with difficulty, to keep up to the current information. This was the case until the Internet showed up, along with its nearly unlimited potential for instant information, especially multi-media, supplemented by sound and graphic files. No traditional print catalog could keep up with such competition. Schwann's last issue was published in 2001.

The change in technology to digital formats, along with the release of the CD, boosted the publishing market enormously. Smaller producers, and even individuals, started to be very active. The catalog publishers were no longer capable of controlling this, so an increasing area of phonography fell outside the reach of the traditional means of cataloging data.

Another, equally professional and valued source of discographic information, Bielefelder Katalog Klassik, published in Karlsruhe, Germany, updated on November 8, 2009, contains a list comprised of 108.000 works, 46.800 names (including 1.400 composers), 20.100 reproductions of record covers and 5.200 other informational details about the presented recordings. It is available in print form, as well as electronically through the Internet. In the present situation it comprises an unusually important source of discographic information, though it should be reiterated, that just like "Schwann", this catalog also had a commercial profile from its outset. Is it complete? Does it contain all possible recordings produced and published in a given moment? Can the list of Chopin recordings be deemed complete? Of course not. It seems very unlikely for such a catalog to be kept up to-date. This contrasts to industry catalogs, put together by a defined group of publishers and producers or defined type of repertory, containing full historical and current listings, and even planned releases.

More than a dozen years ago, a certain collector (we won't disclose his name, since we're treating this example as an anecdote), fascinated with Chopin's music, decided to create a complete Chopin discography - a work worthy of the highest respect, since no similar source  previously existed. He worked on this by the traditional method.  He looked through the current catalogs, wrote to publishers, maintained archive searches and even personally traveled to some producers. In this manner he collected data from nearly all the continents, only South America was left untouched. Still, he obtained nearly data from there anyway. Only a few details had to be checked out.  In the end he had created an impressive work, truly painstaking. He divided his Chopin discography not into three, but only two parts. In the first part he cataloged piano and acoustic recordings (1903- 1928). The second part contained all the remaining recordings, up to the introduction of the CD. The third part should be devoted to this last format. Nevertheless, he never worked on this part, realizing that it would be difficult to comprehend and keep up with the dynamic CD market. 

When this work showed up (2005), this seemed to be an invaluable and relatively complete source of Chopin's discography.  Meanwhile, the Internet started to offer its unlimited potential. Data that once required years or decades to collect, could now be "surfed" during a few computer sessions. Aware of this, instead of recommending a bibliography of the subject, we believe that use of the Internet search tool will be more practical, since it is much easier to find current and more extensive information - all multimedia based.

Nevertheless, this doesn't mean that reaching a full listing of Chopin's recordings, collected in one place is easy. It would be nice if at least one of the numerous initiatives undertaken in the confines of the Year of Chopin would lead to such a work.

Jan Popis
English translation: Philip Stoeckle




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