The Chopin Review

© Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Review of William Smialek and Maja Trochimczyk Frederic Chopin: A Research and Information Guide 2nd edition

Irena Poniatowska

New York and Abingdon: Routledge, 2015. Hardback, pp. xlix + 280. ISBN 9780415998840 (print); ISBN 9780203881576 (e-book). Price approx. £95.00, €160.00, $132.00.

© Fryderyk Chopin Institute

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The second edition of this guide to the Chopin literature was prepared by Maja Trochimczyk. It is an expanded and revised version of William Smialek’s Frédéric Chopin: A Guide to Research (New York: Garland, 2000). Routledge tasked Trochimczyk with adding the most important studies on Chopin written over the preceding fifteen years (including many articles) and verifying earlier publications; the new version also includes a Chopin discography.
In her preface, Trochimczyk stresses that she mainly focused on output in the Anglo-Saxon countries, France, Germany and Poland. The period from 1999 to 2014 was marked by a considerable intensification in research and publishing relating to Chopin and his oeuvre. It included two Chopin congresses held in Warsaw – the Second Congress in 1999 (proceedings published in 2003) and the Third Congress in 2010 (proceedings forthcoming) – as well as the sustained programme of activity undertaken by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, established in 2001, which has significantly stimulated interest in Chopin and, to an extent, nineteenth-century Polish music both in Poland and around the world.

The second edition of this guide contains a calendar of Chopin’s life and six chapters: ‘Researching Chopin’, ‘Chopin’s Correspondence’, ‘Chopin’s Biographies’, ‘Works – Manuscripts, Editions, Transcriptions’, ‘Works – Surveys, Studies and Analyses’, and ‘Reception and Performance Studies’. The layout is similar to that of Smialek’s edition, although there the calendar was very brief, while the ‘Correspondence’ section was included in ‘Life of the Composer’ (with a list of letters appended at the end) and the ‘Reception’ chapter was called ‘The Chopin Legend’.

The division into thematic chapters in the second edition is both logical and justifiable, and it encompasses the whole of the literature, whereas the discography covers only recordings of the complete works and major selections from them. A full discography would require a separate publication such as those cited by Trochimczyk, including the discographies of Józef Kański, Paweł Bagnowski and Armand Panigel (nos. 978–981).

The calendar is considerably expanded and corrected, although not all of the dates accord with the latest research. Examples include the date of Chopin’s arrival in Paris, where he registered with the police on 5 October 1831 but could have arrived earlier (the author gives the date 11 September); Chopin’s first concert in Paris, which was held on 25 (not 26) February 1832; and his departure for Duszniki with his mother on 28 (not 25) July 1826, followed by their arrival on 3 August. It is a pity that the calendar omits details of where Chopin lived in Warsaw: it could have included newly discovered information that the Chopin family, after arriving in Warsaw from Żelazowa Wola in the autumn of 1810, did not move into the annexe of the Saxon Palace, as has usually been claimed until now, but first rented rooms at 411 (now 7) Krakowskie Przedmieście, living in the Saxon Palace only from 1812 to 1817; then (up to 1827) in an annexe of Casimir Palace at the University; and finally in the left wing of Krasiński Palace. Trochimczyk’s study also does not mention that Chopin visited Żelazowa Wola (for the last time) during the summer of 1830. Ludwik Rellstab’s attacks on Chopin’s works are referred to three times (pp. XXX–XXXII), although it would have sufficed to indicate, for instance on the second mention, the particular genres that Rellstab criticised. The author does introduce, however, a recent supposition presented at the Chopin Congress in 2010, namely, that carbon dioxide poisoning from a coal-fired stove possibly contributed to the deterioration of Chopin’s health in Valldemossa. There is also the additional information (dating from the end of the 1990s) that Chopin visited Brussels in 1833.

The chapter ‘Researching Chopin’ consists of five sections:

A: ‘Entries in Reference Works’, covering encyclopaedias and dictionaries;

B: ‘Resources and Bibliographies’, listing internet sources and traditional bibliographies;

C: ‘Books and Studies to 1914’;

D: ‘Collective Essays and Conference Proceedings’;

E: ‘Journals dedicated to Chopin’ and ‘Special Issues of Periodicals’.

In Section C, the author cites many English translations (even a London edition from 1963) of the first Chopin monograph, that of Franz Liszt, and also mentions German translations of that work from 1948. However, she does not include Felicjan Faleński’s Polish translation from 1873, published by Gebethner & Wolff, and she also overlooks other post-war Polish and French editions. The first great monographs include a new edition of Ferdynand Hoesick from 1962–67; reference to the original edition of 1910–11 appears only in brackets, however, even though that particular section is devoted to editions up to 1914. Hoesick’s book is crucial in that it was the first Polish study of Chopin’s life and work of great significance, alongside the British monograph by Frederick Niecks (also cited by Trochimczyk in an edition from 1973, with only a cursory mention of the original edition of 1888 and the reprint from 1902). It would have been better to begin with the first edition and supplement details thereof with information about all known subsequent translations and editions – along the lines of Marceli Antoni Szulc’s study (item 45).

In Section D, all the articles from the Chopin Congresses of 1960 and 1999 are mentioned (in the latter case, even the pages of the texts are provided). Unfortunately, in the case of ‘Conference Proceedings and Essay Collections’, ordering items alphabetically by the named editors of conference proceedings is not appropriate. As a result, for example, the Chopin Institute conferences from the years 2001–08 are given in the following order: VII, VIII, and subsequently – only after seventeen other publications – I, II, III, IV, VI and V. Chronology is not preserved (as in the section ‘Books and Studies’), so to integrate the series of conferences the reader has to know the surname of the first editor. It also seems impractical to repeat information – for instance, the discussion of the Chopin Institute’s eighth conference (and this applies to many other items from collective publications that reappear in other chapters or thematic sections) in V.B.4 ‘The Late and Last Style’ (no. 568): since all the items are numbered, it would have sufficed simply to refer to no. 67. The list is also not without omissions: in the information about the conference Chopin 1849–1999… (ed. A. Ballstaedt, no. 65), the pages of all of the papers are given in order, but there is no mention of Irena Poniatowska’s study (pp. 71–87) on Pauline Viardot’s arrangements of Chopin’s mazurkas.

Chapter II of the guide, dealing with correspondence, is divided into ‘Lists of Letters’, ‘Editions’ and ‘Chronology of Letters’. Among other things, Trochimczyk devotes attention to the controversial letters supposedly written by Chopin to Delfina Potocka. She notes that the graphological analysis revealing the letters to be forgeries ‘has not ended the debate’.

Chapter III, entitled ‘Chopin’s Biographies’, contains the sections ‘General Biographies’, ‘Chopin as a Student’, ‘Chopin as a Teacher’ and ‘Chopin as a Performer’. It also discusses Chopin and instruments, the composer’s stays in a range of places, the way he functioned in particular contexts and in his contacts with other people, and finally the question of Chopin’s health, illness and death. In all of these sections, the author refers to some important studies. The alphabetical ordering by author is more justifiable here, although it is odd that ‘General Biographies’ begins with Atwood (1973), whereas ordering these biographies chronologically would have given an idea of how biographical writing had developed in different countries. Although Trochimczyk painstakingly supplemented and systematised a great number of items, she understandably was unable to mention all biographies, including those of a more accessible nature. Hence we do not find here, for example, the biographies in Polish by Władysław Wszelaczyński (Tarnopol 1885) and Aleksander Poliński (Kijów 1914); publications in German by Arnold Niggle (Leipzig 1879), Adolf Weissman (Berlin 1912) and Johann Schucht (the author of the first German Chopin monograph, from 1879, is mentioned by name only in item 815 in Irena Poniatowska’s article ‘Frühe Monographien…’, under ‘Chopin Studies’); works in French by Georges de Golesco (Brussels 1900) and Élli Poirée (Paris 1907); and the biographies in Italian by Roberto Marvasi (Naples 1899) and Ippolito Valetta (Torino 1921), to mention but a few of the earlier works that are not cited. Nor is there reference to the two large-scale studies Chopin e il suono di Pleyel, ed. Florence Gétreau (2010; texts also in French and English), and Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger’s Chopin et Pleyel (Paris 2010), or to the Polish-language edition of Halina Goldberg’s Music in Chopin’s Warsaw (The Fryderyk Chopin Institute, 2015). In the section ‘Chopin in Context’, one wonders why in the first and second volumes in the series Chopin w kręgu przyjaciół [Chopin in his circle of friends] the authors Wojciech Nowik and Sophie Ruhlmann were listed as editors, alongside Irena Poniatowska. In the section concerning the composer’s family, two fundamental works are missing: Gabriel Ladaique’s Les origines lorraines de Frédéric Chopin (1999) and L’enracinement de Nicolas Chopin (2009), which initiated research into Chopin’s family, later continued by Piotr Mysłakowski and Andrzej Sikorski. Then, on the subject of Chopin’s death, reference could have been made in item no. 65 (Ballstaedt) to Lawrence Kramer’s ‘Chopin bei der Trauerfeier. Episoden in der Geschichte des modernen Todes’ (originally published in 2001 as ‘Chopin at the Funeral: Episodes in the History of Modern Death’ – no. 769).

Chapter IV, ‘Works – Manuscripts, Editions, and Transcriptions’, is linked to Chapter V, ‘Works – Survey, Studies and Analyses’. The former comprises items 385–528; the latter covers items 529–791 and includes (besides a general overview) sections on ‘Style and Aesthetics’, ‘National Style’, ‘Inspirations and Collaborations’, ‘Opera and Bel Canto’, ‘The Late and Last Style’, and ‘Narrative and Meaning’. Then, under ‘Music Analysis’, there is reference to particular musical elements, including texture and instrumentation, and to the genres used by Chopin, in alphabetical order, as detailed in Józef M. Chomiński and Teresa Dalila Turło’s Katalog Dzieł Fryderyka Chopina / A Catalogue of the Works of Frederick Chopin. One error that needs rectifying is the naming of Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger as an author, alongside Zofia Chechlińska and Irena Poniatowska, of the commentary to the Chopin Institute’s facsimile edition of the Sonata in B minor, instead of correctly identifying him as deputy head of the editorial committee of the facsimile series. It is worth emphasising that in these two chapters Trochimczyk lists many new items, published in collective editions and periodicals, which were not mentioned in the preceding chapters of the Guide, although some are repeated from collective works cited earlier. However, there are lacunae. Bronisława Wójcik-Keuprulian (who, together with Ludwik Bronarski, was one of the first Polish Chopin specialists) is represented solely by her work Melodyka Chopina [Melody in Chopin], although she wrote articles (many of which were collected in the book Chopin: Studia – Krytyki – Szkice [Chopin: studies, criticism and sketches] published by Gebethner & Wolff in 1933) on numerous aspects of Chopin’s composition technique, including variations and variation technique, rhythm and metre, and polyphony. Also overlooked was the completion in 2010 of the Polish National Edition of the Works of Fryderyk Chopin, edited by Jan Ekier (with Paweł Kamiński), as well as the publication in 2012 of Ekier’s Zagadnienia wykonawcze II [Performance issues II]. It is regrettable that the large album Dziedzictwo Fryderyka Chopina. Kolekcja Boutroux-Ferrà wValldemossie / The Heritage of Frédéric Chopin. The Boutroux-Ferrà Collection in Valldemossa by Bożena Schmid-Adamczyk (Warsaw 2015) was published too late to be included in the Guide.

Chapter VI, ‘Reception and Performance Studies’, covers many themes, including Chopin in literature, in the arts (including film) and in institutions connected with the composer. In ‘Selected Sources’, a type of mistake already mentioned above recurs: in item 797, Chopin and his Critics: An Anthology (Up to World War I), the name of Magdalena Dziadek is added to that of Irena Poniatowska as editor. In fact, Dziadek was one of the authors; although the translators are named, Trochimczyk makes no mention of the authors who contributed to this anthology, despite the fact that they not only prepared a synthesis of criticism in five European countries, but also selected the critical texts. Wanda Landowska is represented in item 844 by a work comparing Chopin with Gabriel Fauré (1946), yet mention should also have been made of her important article from 1931, ‘Chopin et l’ancienne musique française’. Boris Asafiev, meanwhile, is represented by two articles from the journal Sovietskaia Muzyka, but he was also the author of the first Russian scholarly monograph of Chopin (1922). In the section ‘Chopin Societies and Museums’, it would have been worth mentioning the album Muzeum Chopina w Warszawie: Nowa ekspozycja stała od konkursu do otwarcia / The Chopin Museum, Warsaw: The New Permanent Exhibition, from Competition to Opening (The Fryderyk Chopin Institute, 2011), and under the Fryderyk Chopin Society in Warsaw that the Society’s history from 1934 to 1984 (item 1,011) was also published as a separate brochure in Polish, French and English. The photographic albums relating to the Chopin cult in different parts of Poland and local books of poetry are of limited scholarlyartistic importance and perhaps do not deserve to come under ‘Research Studies’. Meanwhile, Maria Łotocka’s Ostatni nokturn [The last nocturne] (2000) and Dominik Górny’s Poemat o moim Chopinie [Poem of my Chopin] (2010) could have been mentioned alongside those listed by Trochimczyk. In ‘Chopin in the Arts’, mention should certainly have been made of Stanisław Tarnowski’s work Chopin i Grottger [Chopin and Grottger] (1892). This subject was taken up in Irena Poniatowska’s later study ‘Chopin and Grottger’, published in Interdisciplinary Studies in Musicology, 9.

Despite these reservations, it must be stressed that Maja Trochimczyk invested considerable effort into collecting and collating so many items relating to Chopin and his work. The second edition of Frédéric Chopin: A Research and Information Guide introduces the reader to the domain of Chopin studies up to the year 2014 in a wide-ranging, ordered and judiciously selective way. It stretches to 1,014 items, versus the 519 items in the first edition. The revisions suggested here might help in the preparation of a future edition, which is likely to be necessary in a few years’ time given the ever-increasing number of conferences in this field of research, along with new facsimile editions, thematic studies and translations of Chopin studies into English, particularly from Polish.