Fr. Chopin Pianoforte-Werke
revidirt und mit Fingersatz versehen
(zum grössten Theil nach des Autors Notirungen)
von Carl Mikuli.

[TRANSLATOR'S NOTE. — Karol Mikuli (1821-1897) was a pupil of Chopin between 1844 and 1848. In addition to what he tells us in his Foreword, external evidence of such a relationship seems limited to a collection of letters to and from some personages quoted by him; as far as we know, part of these letters are in the hands of the musicologist Hellmut Federhofer. The Foreword we present here translated into Italian for the first time, offers more than any other source precious information about Chopin pianist and teacher.

Why Chopin agreed to coach Mikuli is not certainly because of the romanticised performance of the Scherzo Op. 31, immediately after which Chopin decided to accept him among his pupils. In fact, before one could play in Chopin's presence, he had to have access to him! Tellefsen, Mikuli's fellow, had to wait long before meeting Chopin, and, look out, only after a recommendation through George Sand, at the time the mistress of Chopin's life. Most probably Mikuli was soon admitted, simply because he was Polish even if of Armenian origin. Chopin realized at once that the 23 y. o. young man was not stupid at all (his acute intelligence is evident from his Foreword), and this fact together with the possibility to speak his own beloved mother-language more frequently, persuaded him to become available without regard to piano-attitudes of the young man. It is surely to exclude that from an artistic point of view Mikuli was the favourite pupil. (For further information, cf. J.-J. Eigeldinger, Chopin vu par ses élèves, nouv. éd. mise à jour, Paris [Fayard] 2006, p. 222s.)

Mikuli's edition, published by Kistner from 1880, remains as a whole the sole valuable edition completed by a single man. Unfortunately, he did not follow a philological criterion, even if that year the first Revisionsberichte, by E. Rudorff, began to be published as a critical commentary to the first critical edition printed by Breitkopf & Härtel. We shall turn again to Chopin's editions in another page.

Unfortunately this edition is not available any more, except the first volume (Mazurkas) reprinted in 1987 by Dover Publications, Inc., with a new English translation of Foreword. We hoped, at the beginning, that first volume announced (a very praiseworthy enterprise) the reprint of all the 17 volumes, but, after a second miscellaneous volume, Dover preferred to print other editions completely useless. It is still on the marketplace the American Mikuli's edition, with historical and analytical comments by James Huneker, printed by G. Schirmer, Inc. (from 1895), in 15 books. But it is a newly composed edition containing very bad errors, in other words to be avoided: for example, in the ix Book, Prelude no. 8, whereas in Kistner's edition the bars 6 and 20 are identical and their notation is correct, in the Schirmer's one they have a different notation because of disgraceful and senseless alterations not due to Mikuli!

After a brief carrier as a concert pianist (it would be interesting to find out some reviews of his concerts), in 1858 Mikuli settled definitively in Lwow (now Lviv), becoming director of the Conservatory, and he devoted himself both to composition and teaching. Among his pupils there are famous pianists' names, like Aleksander Michałowski, Maurycy Rosenthal and, lastly, Raoul Koczalski (1885-1948), who, because of J.-J Eigeldinger's tireless efforts, from some time has come back to the scene like the sole repository of the authentic chopinian tradition. The trouble is that J.-J. Eigeldinger is not pianist at all (you can understand it from his turn of writing), and with the examples he got Pierre Goy to play on the cd attached to Interpréter Chopin, actes du colloque des 25 et 26 mai 2005, Paris (Cité de la musique) 2006, he shows both to ignore completely what is “tempo rubato”, and which is the difference between tempo and metre, metre and rhythm; Eigeldinger is not alone indeed, because the most of the pianists are in the same condition, but none of them is the most revered among all the chopinologists. Since we intend to come back to the question elsewhere, in the meanwhile the reader may consider to be good the judgment Arthur Rubinstein passed on Koczalski: «An ex-child prodigy who was covered with medals when he was six, some of them hanging on his little bottom; he lived in Germany and developed into a very bad pianist» (cf. A. Rubinstein, My many years, London [Johnathan Cape] 1980, p. 439). Perhaps what Eigeldinger and Koczalski have in common are the many recognitions; but in order to find place to all the honours conferred upon Eigeldinger we ought to change “little” with “large”. Nevertheless, Chopin vu par ses élèves is an important work, founded on careful researches and written with an almost maniacal accuracy (of course, there is some carelessness: for ex., as bibliographical reference is quoted “LACHMUND” which is not in the bibliography – we think it refers to Carl Lachmund's Diary edited by Alan Walker you can find on line).

As we have just pointed out elsewhere (J. Lhévinne, Principi di tecnica pianistica, ed. it. a cura di Fr. L. Viero, Corsico [Edizioni del Cygno] 1999, p. xi), very rarely the pupils are trustworthy witnesses of their teachers; anyhow, what Mikuli tells us, helps in outlining in a quite definite way the new piano school of Chopin.]

WARNING! Here we may not reproduce the Dovers' English translation because it is copyrighted. But you can find a partial translation by clicking on the link below. Anyhow, we translate our notes.


«… innumerable engraving errors remain uncorrected in the music.[1]

«… Tellefsen and I copied many of them for him,[2]

«… omissions of chord members[3]

«… to improve on poor Chopin![4]

«… Vera Rubio[5]

«… to simplify the execution[6]

«… Bending the hand inward[7]

«… the Finishing Studies in Style by Moscheles[8]

«… to practice only on the finest instruments[9]) …».

[1]Cf. Krz. Grabowski, L'oeuvre de Frédéric Chopin dans l'édition française, Thèse de doctorat en musicologie, Università de Paris IV - Sorbonne 1992, I p. 135s.: «Mikuli… writes illness and death interrupted the work of Tellefsen… Since those exemplars have been published in 1860, that is fourteen years before the Tellefsen's passing, Mikuli's consideration is entirely without foundation. Probably he excogitated it for turning his edition to better account (Mikuli… écrit que la maladie et la mort ont interrompu le travail de Tellefsen… Comme ces exemplaires ont bien été publiés en 1860, soit quatorze ans avant la disparition de Tellefsen, la considération de Mikuli est donc sans aucun fondement. Il l'a probablement utilisé pour mettre davantage en valeur sa propre édition)». Nevertheless, it is not unlikely indeed Mikuli preferred for discretion to mention an undetermined illness: in fact, Tellefsen incurred into an unhappy marriage, which affected him to the death (cf. Natalia Strelchenko, Thomas Dyke Acland Tellefsen, 2009, p. 7, su On the other hand, people do not die a natural death at the age of 51.
[2]Till now no handwritten copies by Tellefsen or Mikuli have been found.
[3]What does mean “chord members”? The expression used by Mikuli (Accordintervallen) is not clear. We think Mikuli is hinting at partial omissions, in the horizontal writing, of the single voices of a chord, whose notes have a different value.
[4]This is an intelligent observation regarding the recensio and must be emphasized.
[5]Mikuli got in touch with Vera Rubio at the last moment, cf. J.-J. Eigeldinger, Chopin vu per ses élèves, nouv. éd. mise à jour, Paris (Fayard) 2006, p. 231.
[6]Since Mikuli does not distinguish his fingering from Chopin's one, many people are inclined to believe this assertion is false. The true question is as follows: since the chopinologists do not know the new piano school of Chopin, where the fingering is not a set of frills, but one of the most important parts of the piano playing intended both as fingers' mechanism and tone quality, they cannot recognize it. We shall come back to this topics. Anyhow, Mikuli tells us the truth, and every serious edition ought to report his fingering, of course by different set of font.
[7]This is a teaching of Italian piano school (perhaps it is not useless to remember that the piano is an Italian instrument). The first piano teacher of the writer taught his pupils the same thing: he had been pupil of Ettore Pozzoli (1873-1957), a famous Italian piano teacher, who had been pupil of Vincenzo Appiani (1850-1932), pupil of Antonio Angeleri (1801-1880), pupil of Francesco Pollini (1762-1846),the latter ten years younger than Muzio Clementi and almost of the same age as Mozart.
[8]He is referring to Op. 70.
[9]Important advice! In fact, the pianos of poor quality ought to be carried to a garbage dump.

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