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Topic: Chopin's Nocturne in E Minor, Op. 72, No. 1 -- Significant textual variants  (Read 2904 times)

Offline gingrichdk

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I've been comparing scores and performances of this nocturne and, among the many differences, have discovered one major one, plus a couple more of interest. Can anyone help me make an educated guess about what Chopin actually wrote?

FIRST VARIANT (m. 24): C natural or C sharp?

In measure 24 (after the declining series of parallel thirds marked "aspiratamente"), a rising phrase begins. Some scores/performers begin the phrase with a C natural; others with a C sharp. (The same disagreement reappears when the theme is repeated in E major at measure 48.) For example, the 1915 Schirmer score shows C natural, but my Conservatory Canada Gr. 9 book shows C sharp.

Judging from Youtube videos, most performers play C natural (Arrau, Harasiewicz, Rubinstein, Richter, Horowitz, Pachmann, Barenboim, Godowsky, Grimaud, Grosvenor, etc.). But there are also important performers who play C sharp (Pollini, Ashkenazy, Sokolov, Paik, Vasary, etc.). Did Chopin intend for a minor third or a major third? The former (C natural) sounds more sentimental; the later (C sharp) reaches forward with more confidence. Both feel possible to me. Is there any way to discover which Chopin intended?

SECOND VARIANT (m. 20): Tie or repeated note?

This variation happens between measures 20 and 21. Some scores show a tie between the B half note at the end of m. 20 and B half note at the beginning of m. 21; others do not. (For one example of each: Conservatory Canada includes the tie; Schirmer 1915 does not, but the Schirmer 1894 does.)

Again, performers differ. Some include the tie (Arrau, Harasiewicz, Pollini, Richter, Grimaud, Ashkenazy, Paik, etc.) while others play the note a second time (Rubinstein, Horowitz, Barenboim, Godowsky, Grosvenor, etc.). This disagreement is not as important as the one above, but I'm still curious if there is a way to know which version Chopin intended. It affects the phrasing in the passage and the voicing between the melody and the alto line. It could also be a clue about what tempo Chopin intended; I notice that some pianists who play this passage slowly repeat the note, since the first note is quite dead by the time they reach the second.

THIRD VARIANT (m. 14): How many Ds?

In measure 14 a new phrase begins, with the melody starting on D for three beats. Some scores (e.g. Conservatory Canada-see photo, C.F. Peters 1879) show a dotted half note. Others (e.g. Schirmer 1915) tie a half note to a quarter for the same effect; the 1894 Schirmer and the 1880 Breitkopf und Hartel achieve the same by tying three quarter notes together. But the London Augener 1883 score puts a phrase mark over three separate quarter notes, and the "urtext" edition here on Pianostreet (see photo) shows a quarter note followed by a half note!

I think I've heard some variation here with performers, too, though I didn't keep record.
 
Can anyone here shed light on any of these textual variants? The first one in particular bugs me. Do I simply need to choose which I like best and go with it, or is there some way to deduce Chopin's intention?
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Offline gingrichdk

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PS: I tried to include photos, but couldn't post till I removed them. :-/

Offline gingrichdk

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I just now listened to the performance of this nocturne on a record set produced in 1960 in Poland on the 150th anniversary of Chopin's birth. The pianist, Zbigniew Drzewiecki, was one of the all-time great Polish pianists and piano teachers, specially known for his interpretation of Chopin. He was born in 1890 and trained at the school of Theodor Leschetizky, the extremely-influential Polish piano educator born in 1830. (See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zbigniew_Drzewiecki)

On this recording Drzewiecki a) plays C natural, not sharp, b) includes the tie at m. 20, and c) holds one D for three beats in m. 14.

Perhaps that's as close to Chopin as we can get?

Offline gingrichdk

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Well, I just ordered this edition edited by Jan Ekier, in hopes it will lead me to good answers:
https://amzn.to/2vmsbT5

Offline edwincurrent

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Could be artifacts from versions of this song arranged for performance with a violin and piano. In these arrangements the final descending arpeggio in m24 is played an octave higher at C4. C4 is explicitly marked natural in this case.  Also repeated in the theme variation.  C5 is natural in every version.

In some versions of the sheet music C3 is explicitly marked with a 2nd sharp accidental in the same measure.  Generally accidental do not impact other voices 2 octaves away but...

Offline gingrichdk

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Thanks, edwincurrent.

According to the edition edited by Eiker, the oldest published edition of this work (by Julian Fontana, 1855), which is the oldest source for this work, has a C# at bar 24, but has an F natural (not sharp) at bar 48 when the theme returns. According to Eiker, "since it seems unlikely that Chopin could have wished to differentiate bars 24 & 48 in this respect, the sign in bar 24 is probably erroneous: either it was mistakenly placed here instead of a cautionary natural or else a supposedly missing # was needlessly added, seeing the c# in the L.H."

I agree that it is unlikely Chopin intended to vary the harmony/melody when it returned; both bars should probably be played the same. Eiker gives a couple other reasons why the version without a # at bar 24 is more likely the original version, and I am following his advice.

Meanwhile, the Eiker version alerted me to multiple other decisions to be made, including other possible transcription mistakes in various published versions!

Offline timtim

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There is also Polish Urtex edition of all Chopin Complete works, maybe that would be good for you. Below is the link for Nocturnes, I think that this book is also available in outher countries. I was released in 1999.

https://pwm.com.pl/pl/sklep/publikacja/nokturny-wn,fryderyk-chopin,673,ksiegarnia.htm


And, Indeed, Drzewiecki was a legend, who had great impact on all polish pianistic school and he editec lots os sheet music as well.

Offline gingrichdk

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Thanks, timtim. Yes, the edition I ordered is from the same series, and by the same editor, as the one you suggested. It is very helpful! If I was rich and a more advanced player, I'd order the entire Chopin series. :-)
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