Conceptual sculpture as popular resource (2 of 2)

December 15, 2011

Matthew Reisz's apparent irritation with the "democratic" aspirations of the Online Chopin Variorum Edition might have been lessened had he troubled to understand whom the OCVE serves and how it does so. Since the 19th century, pianists both professional and amateur have widely known that variants bedevil the sources for Chopin's music. But printed editions offered only highly partial and often inaccurate samplings of these variants. The OCVE offers the means to examine all the variants for any given measure, to judge their musical value and to decide whether to incorporate them in their performances.

Is the OCVE less "democratic" for sometimes worrying over minuscule modifications in Chopin's music? Surely no one reading Times Higher Education needs to be reminded that details matter; and any insinuation that such things might matter less for the "democratic" masses of pianists who might use the OCVE is simply unreflective snobbism.

Does the OCVE serve more than a coterie of Chopin specialists? In my own experience, the answer is a resounding "yes". Fielding enquiries from pianists of all ranks, from all over the globe, I sense a deep appreciation for the insights that the OCVE offers into Chopin's compositional realms, and a correspondingly broad impact on the way his music is played, on the stage and in the home.

The value of scholarship need not be measured only in ways that invoke "democratisation"; but if one must do so, it would be good to note successes such as the OCVE when they occur.

Jeffrey Kallberg, Professor of music history and associate dean for arts and letters, School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania

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