Professor John Rink’s Lecture-Recital: ‘Chopin’s Afterthoughts’

insetProfessor John Rink’s lecture recital, ‘Chopin’s Afterthoughts’, recently given in the Performance Space at City, proved not only to be a fascinating insight into the world of Chopin, but also brought to light many issues relevant to any performer dealing with historical sources.

As the world of performance continues to develop we must consider more than ever the role of performer within music reception – are we to remain a vehicle in replicating the intentions of the composer as closely as possible, or should we allow more creative, even improvisational sway in our interpretations? It was within this wider debate that Rink situated his talk. Though a series of case studies, various interpretive problems were put forth, based on incongruities between different early editions of Chopin’s music.

Known for never having ‘played his own compositions twice alike’, Chopin seemingly changed his mind on portions of several works post-publication. The upshot of this for Rink is that considering any particular Urtext edition as the ‘right’ one is not only ill-informed, but also jarring with Chopin’s compositional aesthetic.

And so, through examination of the editions, and demonstration at the piano, Rink showed how a mixing of various sources, and even (carefully considered) original improvisation around the score may be regarded as perfectly in tune with Chopin’s compositional approach. As it was put towards the end of the talk, ‘in abandoning fidelity to the letter, we capture it in spirit’.

Professor Rink  directs the online resources Chopin’s First Editions Online and the Online Chopin Variorum Edition. See also Rink’s The Virtual Chopin on YouTube.

— Ben Smith and Josie Ellis