“Japanese” Approaches to the Music of Frédéric Chopin
The works of Chopin occupy an undoubted position in Japanese music institutions for their accomplished artistry in piano techniques. Musicological studies show that having quickly appeared as crucial in concert repertoires of the first years of the twentieth century, Chopin became an icon of “Western” culture to which the “civilized” Japanese should aspire. Japanese music universities came to emphasize the importance of his technically demanding works, e.g. Etudes, Ballades and Scherzos while mostly neglecting Mazurkas and Waltzes.
The paper sheds light on critical thoughts regarding “Japanese” education held by some of the country’s contemporary musicians who have formulated their professional identities vis-à-vis “French,” “Polish,” or “European” traditions of Chopin’s music. Semi-structured interviews with Japanese pianists who underwent studies in France and Poland are put through a method of critical discourse analysis that draws upon structuration theory and allows effective inquiry into an agency’s narrative in the face of established institutional discourse.
What is the general view on the teaching of Chopin’s music nurtured in Japanese music institutions? How does it affect individuals’ approaches to Chopin’s works? How do pianists confront or develop the “Japaneseness” of their performance after education in France or Poland? What are the renovated “Japanese” elements in the understanding of Frédéric Chopin’s music after study in Europe?
Analysis conducted under the umbrella of such questions attests to several things including pianists’ recognition of “delicate” Japaneseness resonating with Chopin’s works, notable critique on the “Japanese” pursuit of sophisticated techniques extracted from the fuller universe of Chopin’s music, and the unique refurbishment of a sense of nature through the performance of Mazurkas.