Monday, November 26, 2012

Chopin at the AMS/SMT Conference in New Orleans (Vol. 3, No. 12)

References to Chopin's music abounded during many sessions of the Joint Meeting of the American Musicological Society, Society for Music Theory, and Society for Ethnomusicology held recently in New Orleans, LA.

Special AMS Session on Chopin's music was scheduled for Thursday, November 1, 2012. Chaired and organized by Prof. Jeffrey Kalberg (University of Pennsylvania), the sessionw was called "Chopin Revisited" and featured three papers by Chopin scholars:

1. Nationalizing the Kujawiak and Constructions of Nostalgia in Chopin’s Mazurkas - Halina Goldberg (Indiana University)

"Chopin used the slow mazurka—the kind widely but anachronistically called kujawiak—to summon nostalgia for the spatially and temporally distant—and mythical—Poland. But rather than referencing his homeland through the supposed identity of this dance, Chopin invokes it through musical styles and gestures typical of then-popular characteristic pieces typically marked by the adjectives pathétique, elegique, lugubre, triste, or mélancolique." (Halina Goldberg)

2. Ferruccio Busoni and the “Halfness” of Fryderyk Chopin: A Study about Gender Perception and Performance Interpretation - Erinn Knyt (University of Massachusetts)

"My analysis of a previously unpublished and un-translated essay by Busoni, “Chopin: eine Ansicht über ihn,” in conjunction with analyses of recordings, concert programs, and recital reviews, connects Busoni’s unconventional Chopin interpretations to an idiosyncratic perception of Chopin’s character. Busoni’s essay shows that he too acknowledged a “poetic,” “feminine,” and “emotive” side in the music commonly attributed to effeminate perceptions of Chopin at the time. Yet he simultaneously perceived “half- manly” and “half-dramatic” elements in the music and in Chopin’s character—that is, a heroic monumental side—as well. What he strove to portray in his interpretations was the “whole” of Chopin and his music. He sought to distance himself from the gendered “halfness,” as he called it, which informed contemporaneous interpretations. In so doing, he became a pioneer of Chopin programming and interpretation." (Errin Knyt)

3. The Institution of the International Chopin Piano Competition and Its Social and Cultural Implications -
Tony Lin (University of California, Berkeley)

"By examining the competition’s founding, sponsorships, participants and public reception, I show that what began as an effort to understand Chopin’s music better became much more than a musical affair. I argue that Poles continue to appropriate Chopin for political purposes, as they did in partitioned Poland, where cultural artifacts such as Chopin’s music were critical because they came to constitute the “Polishness” for which the Poles were desperately searching. .. Even though Chopin is now a household name internationally, his music was less popular both inside and outside of Poland prior to 192 7. The competition has played an instrumental role in strengthening the image of Chopin as Poland’s national “bard” while exporting this image to the wider world." (Tony Lin)

Also on November 1, 2012, the Society for Music Theory featured a session on "Schumann and Chopin" with two papers on Chopin:

1. Sonata Form in Chopin: An Evolutionary Perspective - Andrew I. Aziz (Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester)

2. Modeling a Physical Dominant Transformational Relation in Chopin—the Handnetz - James Bungert (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Another session, on "Gesture and Music", held on November 2, 2012, started from a paper about Chopin by Margaret Britton (University of Texas at Austin): Four Gestural Types in Chopin’s Mazurka in C-sharp Minor, Op. 50, no. 3.

Those who wanted to hear Chopin played, instead of listening to scholars talking about him, had a treat on Saturday, November 3, 2012. The noon Lecture Recital by Sezi Seskir (Bucknell University) was entitled "Stolen Time: Temporal Shaping through Musical Markings in the Nineteenth Century." The lecture-recital used examples of tempo rubato in the music of Chopin, Schumann and Brahms.

"After 1828 Chopin started using the term rubato in his scores, yet this was not the only license he gave the performer in matters of flexible time. Similar to Schumann and later Brahms, he provided a richer vocabulary of markings in his scores to inform the performers more precisely about his musical intentions. A close study of these markings in light of treatises from the early nineteenth century reveals indications not only about change of dynamic and touch but also about a flexible treatment of time that can help the performer shape music expressively, enabling moments of intimacy to be created in a threshold of regular pulse. The fantasy as a genre welcomes the use of tempo rubato more than any other, owing to its looser, more flexible form. The Polonaise-Fantasie, op. 61 of Frédéric Chopin,  the first movement of Schumann’s Fantasy in C major, op. 17, and Seven Fantasias op. 116, nos. 1 and 4 of Johannes Brahms offer interesting examples of the rich and detailed use of accentuation markings that serve to inspire the player to use a subtle amount of flexibility of time." (Sezi Seskir)