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Tradition / Reception / Musical editorship / Score publications



Score publications. Publishing traditions


Historical context
First editions and copyright editions
Editions published after the expiration of copyright


Historical context

Since their creation, Frédéric Chopin's works have enjoyed a steady popularity among both performers and the public. 150 years of success have generated a constant need for new score editions. Their abundance and variety have urged us to classify this interesting "production" and to explain the source of the phenomenon. It is worth stressing that the term "tradition" as applied to editorial practice and performing traditions can only be understood historically. The source of this tradition can be seen in a number of "tendencies" in the interpretation of the musical text. Over the years these tendencies have gradually shaped into performing and editorial traditions and as such can today be subjected to scientific study. It seems necessary, in order to properly understand this deceptively simple genesis, to examine all historical editorial criteria, since specific editions have usually seen the light as fruit of several combined conditions.

A matter of particular relevance is the purely commercial element of the editorial policy of publishing houses, who were motivated mainly by financial profits. The appearance of new editions was an answer to the requirements of the musical market. Publishers knew they were running few risks as Chopin's works have always sold well.

Progress in methods of reproduction has also played a stimulating role in music editing. The relatively simple but time-consuming and technically imperfect technique used in Chopin's time, i.e. engraving by hand on metal matrices and printing on paper using printing presses, has gradually been substituted by more modern and profitable methods. Even today better techniques of reproducing musical texts are being created.

Another reason for the appearance of new editions lies in the conviction, generally accepted even until recently, that original editions of Chopin's works contained errors and inaccuracies, which to a large extent deformed the composer's intentions. Musical editors who studied the original editions largely followed this opinion. Their comparative studies also revealed numerous discrepancies between French, English and German editions. The comfortable practice of criticising these sources, though to an extent justified, today can only be seen as much exaggerated.

The modernization of musical notation, a tendency visible particularly in the adoption of a standard notation, has been another factor. Differences in graphical presentation, which were already evident in the first editions and stemmed from personal habits of engravers, have pushed subsequent editors to adopt a standard notation. The strongest influence on that tendency came from German publishing houses and it is generally accepted that modern notation is a child of the German tradition.

Another reason for the appearance of new editions is that editors simply failed to understand Chopin's original notation. Latest research has revealed that, although certain elements of this notation stem directly from earlier traditions (e.g. legato bows, phrasing and harmonic legato), a substantial part is unique to Chopin himself (frequent all'ottava markings, clef changes) or more specifically linked to regional French practice (e.g. the use of warning signs, which is rarer than in other traditions). This individual and varied character of Chopin's notation, often deformed already in the original editions, was further subject to simplification according to detailed canons of musical notation.

The evolution of the piano as an instrument, although it influenced the editorial practices of Chopin's works in a marginal way, cannot be totally ignored. The second half of the 19th century saw a final reshaping of the instrument. A slight extension of its range was introduced and the size of the keyboard was increased. The materials used in the construction of the piano and the mechanism type (spread of the use and improvement of the double escape system) increased the sound capacities of the piano and its sound-selective character. The "sensitivity", depth and rigidity of the keyboard also increased. Of these, only factors related to the sound of the piano, dynamics and expression have to an extent influenced later editions of Chopin's works.

There is no doubt that a change in perceiving Chopin's output and the spread of the popularity of his works had a stimulating impact of editions at the end of the 19th century. During his lifetime Chopin was included in the vanguard of romantic composers. With time he has been acknowledged as counting among the "great classics", whose works were played not only by a handful of virtuosos, but also by numerous conservatory students, the latter often in need of additional precision in editing and performing indications.

The achievements of the romantic piano school, the repercussions of Franz Liszt's teaching, the apex of the era of great virtuosos and a gradual appearance of a tradition of performing the works of Chopin have all had an influence on editions. Beautiful and suggestive yet highly subjective piano playing urged performers and teachers to put their interpretative ideas on paper in score editions. It should then not come as a surprise that performing traditions had a direct influence on music editing, which in turn led to the appearance of new traditions.

Editions were used as a vehicle of leaving an established performing tradition to posterity, but also fulfilled the purely personal ambitions of a famous teacher or pianist who would add his two cents to Chopin's musical text. This tendency was relatively rare and can be traced to a larger extent in editions of single works than in complete editions. A variant of this tendency can be seen in a move to represent Chopin's output from a formal viewpoint. This marginal tendency, directly opposed to the piano-playing practice of the time, had few followers.

Critical assessment of existing editorial practices has always strongly stimulated music editing. Contemporary critical ideas are a direct reaction to decades of editorial practice indifferent to how Chopin himself viewed his works; a practice that would present a purely subjective version of the editor. The change in understanding Chopin's output, typical of the late 20th century, while connected to the past, is manifesting itself in editorial tendencies that base their work mostly on manuscripts and original editions, i.e. the most authoritative sources. This does not exclude editorial inventions and does not mean that editorial progress has been eliminated. But it does indicate a wish to recreate the text of the musical work in a shape that is faithful to the intentions of the composer, reducing the subjective intervention of the editor to a minimum.

First editions and copyright editions

1. First editions

The first published work of Frédéric Chopin was the Polonaise in g minor, which came out in Warsaw in 1817. The last work is a partly reconstructed set of Variations for four hands on a theme from Moore's aria, published by PWM (Polish Musical Editions) in 1965. The most important original editions are those made during the composer's lifetime. Often prepared from Chopin's manuscripts, these original editions assume a particularly important role when the manuscript that served as a basis for them did not survive. They remain the only authentic sources for several Chopin compositions. Apart from a few juvenile items published in Poland and Austria, most of Chopin's works were published simultaneously in three countries: France, England, and Germany or Austria. Many Chopin letters give us insight into this practice, which stemmed from an ambiguity in copyright laws in 19th-century Europe. Original editions were often corrected and many works had several reprints, which were surely subject to corrections by the composer. Publishers of Chopin's original editions in 1817-1849 were:


J. Cybulski, A. Brzezina.


T. Haslinger, P. Mechetti.


M. Schlesinger, S. Richault, Ign. Pleyel, Prilipp, Ad. Catelin, Schonenberger, Troupenas, Pacini, Escudier Frères, Chabal, J. Meissonnier, Brandus et Cie.


Fr. Kistner, Breitkopf & Härtel, A. M. Schlesinger, Peters, Fr. Hofmeister, B. Schott Söhne, Schuberth & Cie, Stern & Cie.


Wessel & Co. Cramer, Addison & Beale, Cramer & Co. Chappell.


J. Ricordi.

Already during Chopin's lifetime a few works changed hands. Such was the case of works originally purchased by Pleyel (Opp. 16 and 17), which were bought in 1834 by M. Schlesinger. Schlesinger in turn sold Opp. 18, 10 and 25 to H. Lemoine in 1842; the Preludes Op. 28 were bought from Catelin by Brandus in 1846, whereas the Mazurka published in "La France Musicale" (nicknamed "Notre Temps"), originally belonging to the Escudier brothers, was subsequently published by Brandus in 1848.

Passing to original editions posterior to 1849, we know that - with the exception of the Sonata Op. 4 and Variations on the theme of Der Schweitzer Bub - the publication of the remaining works took place against the wish of the composer, who on his deathbed ordered that all unfinished works be destroyed. The majority of these pieces (23 piano works and 17 songs for voice and piano) were prepared for publication by Fontana. 23 remaining works were published subsequently in various countries, ending in 1965 when a partially reconstructed set of Variations on Moore's aria saw the light.

Finally, it is worth noting that the most acclaimed works of Chopin were published during the composer's lifetime in other countries than those mentioned above. Reprints of many works were published in Russia, America, Belgium and the Netherlands. A separate category is made up of numerous editions of the Italian publishing house of Lucca in Milan and single works published in Italy by Ricordi, Artaria and Canti.

Due to their primary importance in the reconstruction of Chopin's original texts, original editions are relatively well researched today. Detailed studies have focused above all on French editions, which were in large part corrected by the author himself. A matter of utmost importance for Chopin studies is the identification of first printings; this identification is in many cases problematic, particularly among German editions since publishers in Germany who published subsequent reprints of original editions did not, as did their counterparts in other countries, update their serial plate numbers. Thus the serial plate number of the original edition was often assigned to a completely new publication, making it difficult not only to establish the actual chronology, but also any kind of dating for some editions. It seems likely that many new editions of Breitkopf & Härtel date from after 1849. It is then necessary before undertaking comparative studies of editions to gather all available documentation.

2. Copyright editions

In the mid 19th century the duration of copyright for Chopin's works was different in different countries due to a lack of a consistent European legislation on the matter. In France  a period of ten years after the author's death was in use, meaning an expiration in October 1859 in Chopin's case; in Germany the period was of thirty years and expired in late 1879.

During this time publishers who owned copyrights for Chopin's works continued to put of original editions into circulation, adding to them reprints and new editions. In 1850 the publishing house of E. Troupenas & Cie was acquired by Brandus, and consequently, Brandus was able to to enrich its Chopin collection by this take over (Opp. 35-41, Op. 43, the Hexameron Variation). The London house of Wessel & Co., who owned nearly all of Chopin's works (with the exception op. 12, the Hexameron Variation, 3 Etudes from the Méthode des Méthodes and works never published in England, such as the Mazurka dedicated to Gaillard and the Cello Sonata op. 65), included them in a series titled Complete Collection of the Compositions of Frederick Chopin for the Piano Forte. Solo & Duet. New editions in France and England were relatively rare in that period, while quite a few of them - due to the longer copyright period - were published in Germany.

Editions published after the expiration of copyright

Soon after the expiration of Chopin's copyright the majority of renowned European publishing companies took advantage of the opportunity for free copying of Chopin's works and flooded the market with new editions. Given the abundance of such publications their presentation in chronological order would be everything but easily readable. It seems more adequate to study this production according to the editorial tendencies that they represent.

Before we comment on the most important of those tendencies, note should be taken of the gradual disappearance of publication of the single works, giving way to the publication of volumes, which at first adopted a chronological order of works, and later the publication by genre or form. Only the most popular Waltzes, the Etude in E, the Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 and the Funeral March were published separately with any frequency. Two facts, focusing on the marketing period of the original editions and their mutual influence, are also worthy of mention.

The co-existence of original and new editions was particularly characteristic of the French and English markets. The above-mentioned collection of Wessel & Co. became property of Ashdown & Parry and was continuously available to British buyers from 1860 onwards. In 1859 the owner of the majority of the original French editions, Brandus (successors to M. Schlesinger), undertook the ambitious task of publishing Chopin's complete works in a series titled Edition originale / Oeuvres complètes pour le piano de Frédéric Chopin / Seule édition authentique sans changements ni additions, publiée d'après les épreuves corrigées par l'auteur lui-même. This series, mostly composed of original editions, was published over several years until 1878. After the dissolution of the Brandus house this series passed on to publisher Ph. Maquet in 1888 and then to C. Joubert in 1899 and was listed in the latter's catalogues well into the 20th century.

The mutual influence of original editions can be traced back relatively early. Variants specific to German editions appear in Paris editions published immediately after the expiration of copyright in 1859. In the second half of the 19th century the French music editing industry went through a period of serious crisis. Cheaper high-quality German editions flooded the French market to compete with domestic editions. German editions of Chopin's works offered for sale in France were mostly based on German original editions. It thus seems plausible that these texts served as a basis for numerous French editions of a later period. The influence of German text variants can be observed in the majority of French publishing houses, even Brandus. The influence of French variants on German editions only starts in 1878. In contrary to the French practice of adopting German text versions mechanically, many German editors consciously selected French variants which they deemed better than original German ones.

To classify editions published after the expiry of copyright is no easy task. If one is to believe declarations like the one from Brandus' Parisian series quoted above and many others appearing on title pages of a large number of 19th century editions, one could be led to believe that a vast majority of them reproduced the authentic text of Chopin's works in a faithful way, based on available sources. In reality most editors from that period almost never used the then widely available original editions and limited themselves to perfecting previously corrected editions.

1. Source-critical editions

This tendency is not very widely represented in the 19th century, only becoming prevalent in the second half of the 20th century. Among such editions are those corrected by Chopin's pupils. This task was undertaken by: T. D. A. Tellefsen (Richault, Paris, 1860), Georges Mathias (Harand, Lemoine Aîné, Paris, c. 1859) and Karol Mikuli (Kistner, Leipzig, 1879). The Tellefsen edition was criticised by Mikuli, editor of a similar publication. It also failed to meet the approval of Ganche - editor of a later edition based on French original prints. An objective study of Tellefsen's editorial work reveals that his edition repeats a large number of original editions' errors. The collection prepared by Mathias leaves even more to be desired. The only relatively satisfactory publication is Mikuli's edition, which enjoyed a wide popularity and was often reproduced.

Apart from the above-mentioned editions, another noteworthy one belonging to this group was prepared by an editorial council which included many renowned musicians, among them Brahms, Liszt, Franchomme, Rudorff Reinecke and Bargiel and which came out in Leipzig at Breitkopf & Härtel's in 1878-1880. The editors went to some lengths to prepare Chopin's text, meticulously comparing prints of most of the original editions, particularly German ones. It is worth adding that this edition is based on consistent editorial criteria and that several volumes included critical commentaries, then a rarity.

Two publications: a volume containing 27 Etudes edited by Ernst Rudorff (Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1899) and the above-mentioned edition by Edouard Ganche (Oxford University Press, London 1932), represent a tendency to minimize text corrections. Ganche only included variants and corrections that featured in the Stirling collections, i.e. only one of the available sources. Rudorff on the other hand based his work on a wider documentary base.

The edition prepared collectively by N. Oborin, H. G. Neuhaus and J. I. Milstein (Muzgiz, Moscow 1951-1962) was left unfinished. It is based on a relatively wide source base. Most editorial corrections can be easily identified thanks to a system of brackets and small print.

The urtext edition of Ewald Zimmermann, Hermann Keller and Ernst Herttrich (Henle Verlag, Munich-Duisburg) is today one of the most popular source-critical editions. Volumes were published between 1956 and 1993. The source base for the first published volumes overlooks many important documents, among them English original editions. Later volumes have significantly widened the source base and the critical commentary has also much improved. The Henle edition has been adopted as base by two of smaller publishers, H. Lemoine (Paris, published since 1990) and Könemann (Budapest, published since 1993). The former focuses on the performing aspect while the latter is purely a source-critical edition.

One of the most representative editions is the National Edition of Works of Frédéric Chopin [Wydanie Narodowe Dziel Fryderyka Chopina], published in Cracow by PWM. It has been preceded by an Introduction, published in 1974, in which editor-in-chief Jan Ekier outlined the editorial criteria of the project. The first volume containing the four Ballades came out in 1967, the extensive commentary to this volume - in 1970. Subsequently the publisher dropped the idea of publishing extensive commentaries and later volumes only have abridged versions added. This has substantially increased the pace of publication of this edition, which is the only alternative on the Polish market to the widely used edition by Paderewski, Bronarski and TurczyNski. Recently a corrected version of the Ballades came out under Ekier's supervision, which is based on a much wider variety of sources than the first version of 1967.

The edition of the Viennese house Wiener Urtext, prepared by Bernhard Hanse, Jörg Demus, Paul Badura-Skoda and Jan Ekier, is also noteworthy. With the exception of the Etudes, all volumes feature critical commentaries. The solution employed by Badura-Skoda, consisting of adding many variants abandoned by Chopin directly in the text of the Etudes, is unpractical and might wrongly suggest to the perfomer that all variants are equally valid. The Wiener Urtext edition is also useful in offering facsimiles of three works (Op. 10 No. 3, Op. 28 No.15, Op. 55 No. 1), thus allowing the performer to study Chopin's original notation and details of the editorial work.

Within the series of the Leipzig publishing house of Peters only three volumes have so far been published: Preludes, Impromptus and Ballades. Despite declarations to the contrary, subsequent volumes of this edition have not been published to date. The London branch of Peters has assigned the task of preparing a new source edition of Chopin's complete works to an international team which includes Polish scholars.

2.The critical-heuristic tendency

Editorial practice in this category focuses mainly on critical aspects. Although the use of sources is widespread, these do not usually constitute the nucleus of the editor's argumentation.

Publications include the edition corrected by Jan Kleczyński (Gebethner & Wolff, Warsaw 1882), which includes variants passed on by "the most acclaimed pupils" of Chopin. Unfortunately, editions other than authoritative sources, especially Mikuli's and Brahms', have influenced Kleczyński's work. Abundant fingering markings adopted by Kleczyński are only rarely concordant with those suggested by Mikuli. This would substantiate the theory that each editor adopted his own fingering, which was based on Chopin's rules, but for the most part was not authentic. In 1902 Kleczyński's edition was corrected by Rudolf Strobel, modifications focusing mostly on fingering.

A similar fate was shared by the edition of Eduard Mertke (Steingräber, Hannover-Leipzig c. 1880), subsequently corrected and completed by Emil Kronke. Sources used were not exclusively original editions. In the instance of the Waltz Op.18 Mertke denotes variants stemming from Lemoine's corrected edition of 1850 or its relatively faithful copy, published by Brandus in 1859.

Similar documentary errors can easily be found in the edition prepared by Paderewski, Bronarski and Turczyński (PWN-IFC, Cracow-Warsaw 1949-1961). Apart from manuscripts and original editions, the critical commentaries often quote variants from later complete editions; some of these corrections are even placed in the main text. A general uniformization of phrasing, articulation and pedaling as well as frequent corrections aiming at achieving a symmetry of the harmonic and melodic text may also seem dubious from the point of view of contemporary editorial critique. The Paderewski edition remains, nonetheless, a popular and acclaimed Polish publication.

3.The critical tendency

This group includes a wide variety of editions. Although they often refer to sources, instead of original editions these more often than not are corrected editions from the end of the 19th century. Depending on the critical sense of the editor, some of these publications represent an extreme course. Such is the case of two editions: Charles Klindworth's (published in Moscow by Jurgenson in 1873-1876) and Attilio Brugnoli's (Milan, Ricordi, 1923-1937). Judging by the number of reprints, the former is one of the most popular editions on the market - which is not surprising as Klindworth was a pupil of Liszt and was a well-known and highly praised piano teacher. His numerous editorial interventions aimed at correcting the "Chopin orthography", completing and enriching harmonies, phrasing, dynamics, specifying the execution of ornaments: in a word the goal was to subjugate Chopin's works to Klindworth's own musical ideas, which by no means lacked internal logic. Brugnoli went just as far in his interventions. It can be supposed that he treated Klindworth's edition as a model, since the latter's solutions appear in Brugnoli's text with great frequency. Apart from Klindworth Brugnoli also quotes Mikuli, Scholtz, von Bülow, as well as numerous pianistic "tricks", simplified versions and harmonic enrichments characteristic of the tradition of great virtuosos. Some of the volumes of this edition carry the subtitle "edizione didattico-critico-comparativa". Its teaching character is undoubted, whereas the critical and comparative aspect is limited to the most representative of late 19th-century editions. Between 1946 and 1957 the house of Ricordi reprinted the Brugnoli edition with a new layout; on that occasion the task of modernising Brugnoli was assigned to Pietro Montani, who eliminated not only the critical commentaries, but also most of Brugnoli's interpretative markings, which substantially tamed the subjective character of this edition.

A moderate course is represented, among others, by Hermann Scholtz (by Peters, Leipzig 1879) and Ignaz Friedman (Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig, 1913). Scholtz bases his works on a quite wide documentary base, yet his edition still contains numerous editorial interventions. Friedman limits his research to German editions. His version also includes numerous editorial variants by his hand, adding a strong teaching character to the whole. Scholtz's edition was later corrected and completed by Bronislaw von Pozniak in 1948-1950.

The latter group also includes French editions by C. Debussy (Durant, 1915-1916), L. Lévy (Senart, 1915-1919), L. Diémer (Lemoine, 1915-1918), L. Wurmser, M. Moszkowski, C. Galeotti, M. J. Riss-Arbeau, A. Casella (Edition Française de Musique Classique - Heugel, 1916-1924) and S. Weksler (Choudens, 1928), as well as German editions by L. Köhler (Litolff, 1880-1885), X. Scharwenka (Schott, 1909-1913) and E. von Sauer (Schott, 1917-1920), and finally the edition of Raoul Pugno (Universal Edition, Vienna, 1902).

As a curiosity let us mention the publication of Chopin's selected works prepared by the outstanding German music theorist Hugo Riemann, who was also active as a music editor (Musikalische Universal-Bibliothek, 1886-1891; Steingräber, c. 1891). His editorial interventions, in tune with the principles of his constructivist musical ideas, are an example of the liberties taken with Chopin's text at the end of the 19th century.

4.The teaching tendency

The variety within this group is as great as in the previous one. Some of the editions listed below and above do really fall between the two categories. The division can be a matter of argument since complete editions often lack coherence and any common character. The very term of a "teaching tendency" should be understood as denoting editions of "practical" or "instructive" character, aiming at making it easier for less experienced musicians to understand the music of Chopin and its interpretation. This is achieved through a large number of additional indications, placed either directly in the musical text or in separate commentaries.

The first edition of this type saw light in the series of the Paris publishing house of Heugel & Cie edited by Marmontel - a well-known Professor at the Paris Conservatoire. His commentaries are short and editorial interventions rather discrete. The text of Chopin's works in the first volumes of the series is based on French editions; later German variants are often to be found.

The tradition of commenting on the output of great masters was well-developed in France. Adeline Charpentier tried to imitate Marmontel in a typically teaching-oriented publication Le Maître de musique (Firmin-Didot Frères, Paris, 1870-1881), without much success. A much better result was achieved by Raoul Pugno (Libraire des Annales, Paris, 1909) who left useful remarks on the execution of Chopin's works, apparently stemming directly from the composer and passed on by G. Mathias. The most widely known French edition of this type is Alfred Cortot's (Senart-Salabert, Paris, 1915-1939, 1941-1947). Originally, Cortot's commentaries were first of a practical nature (e.g. in the Etudes), later a poetic emphasis became apparent, betraying the editor's search for a literary programme to Chopin's music. The quality of the text in the Cortot edition is unquestionable. It seems odd, however, that in many reprints the Salabert house never corrected some obvious printing mistakes.

Among German editions, some originating in the 1880s are worthy of note: Th. Kullak's (Schlesinger-Lienau, Berlin), Anton Door's (Cranz, Hamburg-Leipzig), S. Jadassohn's (Kahnt, Leipzig), A. Richter's (Schubert & Co., Leipzig), E. Bohn's (Fiedler, Breslau), as well as the still somewhat controversial edition by Hans von Bülow (Aibl, Munich). Criticism of this edition today seems rather exaggerated; von Bülow's corrections are far less numerous than other editors'. Other popular German editions were prepared by E. d'Albert (Forberg, Leipzig), T. Wiehmayer (Heinrichshofen, Magdeburg) and Leonid Kreutzer (Ullstein, Berlin). Italian editions include those edited by B. Cesi (Ricordi, Milan, 1901), which also came out in Paris in a version corrected by I. Philippe, and the relatively recent edition by A. Casella and G. Agosti (Curci, Milan, 1946-1965). The volume edited by Agosti (the Sonatas) shows an evident change in the attitude towards Chopin's text, as well as a highly useful separation of the critical commentary from practical-interpretative remarks. Poland is represented in this category by the work of A. Michałowski (Gebethner & Wolff, Warsaw, 1924 and 1930), partly based on the Bülow edition. In America teaching editions were prepared by R. Joseffy (Schirmer, 1894 and 1915-1918), in Britain, by Frank Merrick (Novello & Co., London, 1935-1953). A final mention for the editions of Waltzes prepared in 1920 by B. Bartok for the Hungarian house of Ferenc Bárd. One of the latest editions of the present category is the series published by the Japanese firm of Ongako-no Tomo and Zen-on Music Co. in 1973-1979, which combines the reprint of the urtext with a typical practice-oriented set of text annotations and commentaries to each works.


The above study focused on a historical overview of the most representative tendencies in editing the texts of Frédéric Chopin's works in the context of world editorial practice. The author has sought to remain impartial. Quoted editions were listed according to their use of musical sources. Judgment of pianistic or teaching value was kept to a minimum, also because such value is often related to conditions or needs of a specific performer rather than to an edition's objective quality.

More detailed information on design and content of quoted editions can be found in the Katalog Dzieł Fryderyka Chopina [Catalogue of Works by Frédéric Chopin], edited by Józef Michał Chomiński and Teresa Dalila Turło (PWM, Warsaw, 1990), which served as a primary source for the selection that follows.


Krzysztof Grabowski
English translation: Wojciech Bońkowski


List of the most important editions published after 1859




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