Celebrating the Chopin Bicentennial

On March 1, 2010, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frédéric Chopin.

In honor of this occasion, I’d like to share with you a few thoughts about Chopin’s music and bring together links to valuable sites offering scores, information, and more.

As with nearly all classical musicians, Chopin’s music has intersected my life in countless ways. I’ve played his compositions on the keyboard and in arrangements for guitar. I’ve listened to his music in casual settings and in concert halls.

For me, Chopin’s music never grows stale. Even the simpler Preludes epitomize timelessness. And I find the authenticity and distinctiveness of his compositional voice to be irresistible.

Thanks to ongoing developments on the Web, we now have unprecedented access to his music, his letters, and to scholarship about his life and creative process.

For free scores, check out this page on the Internet Music Score Library Project. Another terrific resource is the collection of early editions housed at the University of Chicago Library – click on “Register of Scores” at the top of the linked page, and then scroll down and click on the image number to view a particular title. Also see their “Collected Editions” page.

Facsimile editions of Chopin’s autograph manuscripts are available for purchase from the Chopin Institute - they’re pricey, but copies are commonly available in leading music libraries. 

I’m not aware of any reliable sources for free autograph facsimiles, but selected pages can be previewed here, courtesy of the Chopin Society. That said, the complete manuscript of the Prelude in Ab Major opus posthumous for solo piano can be viewed on the website of the Library of Congress.

What’s a facsimile? Check out my post, “The four types of music editions.”

Free autograph facsimilies could be available in the near future, however. The Polish National Library in Warsaw is assembling a digital archive that currently includes early editions and numerous important documents. According to the site, “upcoming additions will contain digital reproductions of Chopin’s manuscripts, his correspondence and other memorabilia connected with the composer.”

Extensive information about Chopin’s music, life, and impact can be found on the websites of the Chopin Society and the Chopin Institute. For a quick read, there’s also a concise biography on Wikipedia.

If you’d like to examine his letters translated into English, on Google Books, you can preview the 1988 Dover edition of nearly 300 letters. Images of original letters and other documents are also freely available on the Chopin Kaleidoscope portion of the Chopin Institute site.

To learn about various celebrations taking place worldwide, visit Chopin 2010.

Lastly, here’s a classic recording of the G minor Ballade, op. 23, exquisitely performed by Arthur Rubinstein (audio only). A search on YouTube will turn up a wealth of additional recordings.

Bon anniversaire, Monsieur Chopin!



Arthur Rubinstein performs Chopin Ballade in G minor, op. 23
 (audio only)

© 2010 Gerald Klickstein

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