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For Those with Small Hands and Short Fingers, This Edition Is Helpful, for Others Much Less So
on 29 February 2012
Rafael Joseffy`s editions of Chopin`s piano music (these works and others) still retain their place these days, namely for a pianist with such small hands and, thus, short reach (stretch), that he needs Joseffy`s very complex fingerings to cope with playing the music smoothly, without breaking legato yet not overusing the pedal as compensation for those tiny paws, unless, of course, he is fortunate enough to be as double-jointed as Chopin himself was.
Joseffy`s editing is fine, from a musical standpoint of the music notated on the page, but certainly no better than what some other editors have provided, notably Ignaz Jan Paderewsky (also Alfred Cortot) in editions better suited for pianists with normally sized hands. Paderewsky`s editing is famously spare and authentic; however, that sparsity applies also to fingering, so most pianists, especially amateurs, are likely to prefer Mikuli or Cortot, whose editions include more ample fingering indications better suiting their needs than Paderewsky`s almost too elegantly unintrusive editing does so. Getting back to Joseffy, pianists, in fact, with normal or large hands will find Joseffy`s fingerings downright congestive and very annoying, i.e. useless. And, for sure, Chopin`s music does need some help with fingerings included in a good edition to facilitate mastering it.
Far better it is for the pianist of average physique to use Carl Mikuli`s wonderful editions of Chopin. Their fingerings are superbly straightforward, practical, and uniformly helpful, while the quality of Mikuli`s editing is good, too, and less fussy than what Joseffy provided. Schirmer published Chopin`s music as both of these men (Mikuli and Joseffy) edited it, though what is in Schirmer`s catalogues at any one time can waver from decade to decade; however, with Amazon and other on-line WWW sites available to find used copies, this is not too much of an obstacle in obtaining the edition which the pianist happens most to desire. Go for the Mikuli, unless you need the crutch of Joseffy`s solutions for those with tiny hands and short fingers.