Published : 2023-04-27

The evolution of performance style in the history of the International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw

Wojciech Kocyan


The International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw was inaugurated in 1927, in part out of the desire to promote an authentic performance practice in relation to Chopin’s oeuvre. Among the main concerns were the establishment of, and strict adherence to, the original authoritative text and an authentic performance aesthetic. The debate over those issues has been at the heart of the artistic mission of the Competition ever since. As the Chopin Competition indeed exercised immense influence on the performance style of Chopin’s music during the twentieth century – an influence that has continued into the twenty-first century – this paper examines the evolution of that style through Competition performances. Has the performance style evolved at all? If so, to what extent? Starting with the 5th Competition, in 1955, the year in which the Competition audio archives were started, the author discusses selected performances by most of the winners of the First Prize. Also discussed are performances by some of the pianists who did not win but whose contributions were important in terms of their influence on Chopin performance practice. Besides addressing the question of whether the evolution of Chopin performance style is encouraged, discouraged or even possible at a Competition whose main goals include establishing and preserving an authentic performance practice, the paper questions whether that goal can ever be achieved. Also discussed is the place of the Competition in relation to the changes in Chopin performance style in the piano world outside the Warsaw Competition. In the introduction, the author briefly considers some of the characteristics and challenges of the unique style of Chopin as understood through most recent achievements in musicology, cultural studies, editing, research, performance, piano pedagogy and music criticism. He also describes the main principles of the so-called ‘Polish School’ of Chopin interpretation and its impact on the development of what is currently the principal way of performing Chopin. The article is supplemented by an online playlist comprising audio excerpts of some of the discussed performances.


Chopin, International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, performance, music performance, performance style, performance practice, authentic performance, piano competitions, piano recordings, piano performance history, aesthetics, recording arts, recording technology, musicology, piano pedagogy, music criticism




Download files


Citation rules

Kocyan, W. (2023). The evolution of performance style in the history of the International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. Chopin Review, (1), 20–37.

Altmetric indicators


Narodowy Instytut Fryderyka Chopina
ul. Tamka 43
00-355 Warszawa
tel.: (+48 22) 44 16 100
Copyright 2022 by Narodowy Instytut Fryderyka Chopina
OJS Support and Customization by LIBCOM
Platform & Workfow by OJS/PKP