Angela Lear - The Original Chopin
Pianist Angela Lear Records Chopin as the Master Intended
The intimate and poetic nature of Chopin's music naturally lends itself to very personalized interpretations of the music by pianists - arguably more so than any other composer. This fact has resulted in recordings of Chopin's repertoire which vary dramatically from artist to artist, based on the particular interpretation of the pianist. It has also fostered a one hundred and fifty year old debate over just how to interpret Chopin's music. When we listen to a recording of Chopin's music, are we hearing the music as Chopin intended, or are we hearing how that particular pianist "reads" the music? Are we hearing Chopin or the artist who is playing his music?
Does it matter? Surely it does. How an artist enunciates a particular phrase of the music affects its meaning - just as in human speech. This fact is particularly relevant to Chopin's music because it is so lyrical, poetic, and even narrative at times. Is a particular Mazurka, for example, a whimsical trifle or a solemn tone-poem? The answer is, usually, what the individual playing it thinks it is.
Given the wide-ranging interpretations of Chopin's music in the form of recordings, we have the opportunity to seek out the "best" Chopin - "who does the best Preludes", "who does the best Ballades", etc. There are piano competitions which try to answer the question, "Who plays Chopin the best?" But what about the question, "How did Chopin want his music played?" - which ultimately begs the question, "What did Chopin mean - what was he saying?"
The fact that Chopin died before the advent of sound recording has left us with the reality that we will never truly know how Chopin should be played (unlike the masters of more modern musical genres such as Coltrane's Jazz). Although this means that there is an endless variety of "flavors" of Chopin to enjoy and to have debate about, we must be kept forever wondering if anyone will ever "get it right". Possibly no one except for Chopin himself could ever "get it right", but does that mean we are forever resigned to experiencing Chopin "once-removed", or twice-removed, or thrice...? Is the experience of Chopin's music forever at the whim and fancy of those deemed best to record it?
One pianist, Angela Lear, has endeavored to produce recordings of Chopin's music which are as faithful to Chopin's intentions as possible. Ms. Lear and her colleagues have rigorously studied original and/or early manuscripts to discover (and adhere-to) the explicit directions of Chopin himself. She has also consulted the foremost experts on Chopin's music and other rigorous academic material on the subject. She has decided to rely not upon her opinion of how Chopin should be played (and thus produce just another interpretation of Chopin's music), but instead upon the discovery of how Chopin himself instructed the pianist to proceed.
Angela Lear is engaged in the pursuit of recording all of Chopin's music with the intent of giving the world, at last, its first complete collection of Chopin's music which is as close as possible to "the real thing". We now have the chance to hear a Chopin which is not beholden to the whims of the pianist, but the closest possible to Chopin's own intentions - based upon what he himself said and wrote. Ms. Lear strips away the layer-upon-layer of interpretations of Chopin's music to reveal a Chopin unaffected by individual personalities and the changing tastes of the public. We may now take a step back - from the generations and generations of cumulative Chopin interpretation which colors our experience of Chopin - back to Chopin himself - the original Chopin.
"Miss Lear is running a one person crusade against the ready acceptance of highly personalized performances of Chopin which have moved us so far from the composer's intentions." - Colin Pryke - Producer, "The Original Chopin" Series.
"...Chopin held strong opinions about the performance of his music and the directions he left in his manuscripts are so specific that its astonishing how far modern performance has departed from his stated intentions. Most pianists over-dramatise his music, playing it too loudly and too fast, with scant attention to phrasing and dynamics and with inappropriate pedaling. Inaccuracies have crept into some of the more readily available printed editions. Chopin experts have long sought to remedy the situation and to recapture an authentic style of playing - among them Angela Lear. Her Chopin alongside other performances, even by some of the most respected pianists, is a revelation... ...hear what Chopin really intended." - BBC Music Magazine
To learn more about The Original Chopin series (which now contains four volumes), Ms. Lear, her methodologies and the critical praise she has earned - and to purchase Angela Lear's "Original Chopin" CDs from Libra Records, visit the website at http://www.angelalear.co.uk/
Excerpts from Volume 4 of The Original Chopin (used with permission)
"As the basis for any discussion on the interpretive problems and complexities facing the Chopin interpreter, it is essential to acknowledge, first and foremost, that the composer did know best how his compositions should be performed. That fact alone cannot be doubted. Secondly, it is necessary to consider the original score markings. The original source material, autographed manuscripts, original editions, annotated scores, correspondence etc. provides the crucial link between composer and pianist. These remain the fundamental guidelines on which any interpretation, or recreation, is or should be based. Where this link is questionable or erroneous, it seriously weakens or distorts the ultimate expressive communication that you, the listener, receives. Such personalized versions serve only to subvert and/or obscure the composer's intentions. Those who intentionally disregard specific performance directions make the arrogant assumption that they are at the same level of genius as Chopin. It is well documented that Chopin abhorred any alterations to his musical scores. His original score markings, at least, were precise. Although, unfortunately, some engravers and editors, publishers over the years have chosen to sprinkle their own variety of spurious additions on the scores, omitting many of Chopin's own performance indications. Of course, it is also fair to say that when score markings are correctly shown, these are not always observed or given due consideration." - Angela Lear - excerpt from spoken introduction on bonus CD that accompanies Volume 4. (Bonus CD includes a spoken discussion of her reasoning and methodology regarding the Sonata Opus 35, along with piano demonstrations).