Different Editions of the Chopin’s Works

Different Editions of the Chopin’s Works


Which one is the “correct” edition? Which one is the right thoughts of the composer? Different editions can affect the whole performance such as the fingering, Dynamic, Phrasing, and even the style of the Performers. Among numerous composers, Chopin’s music required his unique representations and technique in playing his works (Huneker, 1918). So, different editions can provide different guidance to performers to handle those works.

“Do you know which countries contributed to edit Chopin’s works? ”


During the first half of the 19th century, the laws protecting authors’ rights significantly differed from nowadays’ copyright legislation (Rink, 2008). In France and England works that were released prior to their publication in other countries tended to be protected. For instance, Chopin attempted to have his works brought out in several countries at the same time, which effectively reduced the risk of pirated reproductions. Before leaving Poland, Chopin only published a few works, in each case the publisher issued them and did not think too much about protecting his own interests. Until he arrived in France, his local reputation was gradually recognized internationally, and he realized the economic benefits of publishing his works in multiple countries/regions at the same time (Sheet Music Plus, 2017). I have selected four editions, representing the four cultural circles most relevant to Chopin’s editing after the 19-Century: France, Germany, England, and Poland.

Different Editions

Firstly, German editions mostly completed Chopin’s musical text-focused for example the slurs, pedalling, and dynamics. Importantly, German editors tend to a lesser extent, to expressive indications. They also write down in full what is implicitly contained in Chopin’s notation about the phrasing and pedalling from the preceding bars, analogous fragments. Besides, they fix particular performance solutions in the musical text by the nearest thoughts of Chopin (Bońkowski, 2016). Moreover, German editors are almost entirely limited to phrasing, pedalling, dynamics, and even tempo. They tried to give out Chopin’s original melodic and rhythmic substance. Melodic and rhythmic emendations are few and far between and are essentially minor corrections by uniformizing textual repetitions. Thus, they had relatively narrow limits of freedom in the edition (Bońkowski, 2016).

Secondly, the French edition mostly concerns the details of musical text realisation (dynamics, tempo, articulation). Hence, the rhythm and pitch core of Chopin’s text remains essentially unchanged. Also, French editors would have a detailed analysis of the musical text through diverse reaches and investigations. So, it leads to a reassessment of the value judgments on the various editions proposed in the existing works of literature. For example, Debussy also was an editor in modifying Chopin’s works with enthusiasm. Debussy’s editions were the furthest departs from Chopin’s text because he used to borrow gratuitous edits from earlier collected editions and added his own revisions. It was an indispensable step in the study of Chopin’s editing. Editors of Chopin’s compositions in France can be characterised as a continuing revision of the text (Bońkowski, 2016).

Thirdly, the English edition mostly appeared in the actual sense of new versions. Although the enigmatic scarcity of editions of Chopin’s works in Britain, they contained more interesting editions that appeared in English editions. However, the English first editions of Chopin’s works have less authority than the French and German ones. Both corrections and variants are interpolated from the main source and added spontaneously by the editors. Some of the variants we observed may not be interpolated from the German version but inserted from the printed version edited by Chopin’s students. It may be that some of these variants have been borrowed while eliminating some as overly free, based on editors’ critical judgement.

Fourthly, the Polish edition mostly does not include all the variants present in the copies of Chopin’s students and the German original edition. Since they owned the rights to most of Chopin’s works until 1879, editors also introduced their critical changes. Sometimes they may even change the tempo as a surprising or erroneous work. But, most often consistent with the composer’s intentions documented by primary sources. Polish editors confirmed the editor’s intuition and increased the musical value of the edition. For instance, they saw fingering as a part of the broader editorial work and re-fingered those works editors considered pivotal in Chopin’s output (Bońkowski, 2016). Importantly, they proposed a more personal approach or think they should make more substantial changes.

Case Study – Minute Waltz (Op. 64 No. 1) (in D Flat)

(Figure 1, French edition approach)
(Figure 2, German Edition approach)
(Figure 3, English Edition approach)

Figure 1, is the French Edition of Chuan Yin Music PUB. CO. (Taiwan). Figure 2, is a German Edition from Schirmer’s Library of Musical Classics. Figure 3, is an English edition from The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. The Dynamic and pedalling are different from the French & German editions. Especially, Bar 9 and 10, there are different patterns in the left-hand (Figure 3).
(Figure 4, English Edition)
(Figure 5, French Edition)
(Figure 6, German Edition)

In figure 4, English edition, Bar 29-36 showed the note bass melody, continued beyond dotted minims into bar 36 More focus on the melody in Left-Hand. However, the French and German editions (Figures 5 & 6) had not appeared those changes inside the edition.


To conclude, there is no “True” edition for everyone. Because different editions contain characteristics that can affect the entire performance. It is vital to find out the correct one by interpretation of performers. Since it is highly related to the style, dynamic, phrasing, and even representation of Chopin’s works. It inspired us to have more research before having the “perfect” performance in the future.

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