Tellefsen – publisher
Tellefsen as a publisher of early music
His interest in early music inclined Tellefsen to publish music from previous centuries. In the years 1855–1861, he edited five different collections of eighteenth-century music, four of them including works by German and Scandinavian composers. Those works came mainly from the collection of his teacher, Ole Andreas Lindeman, from Trondheim. In his own way, Tellefsen was continuing a tradition of using early music that had existed in his home city since the early nineteenth century.
These publications were special, as they presented works by many composers which were hardly (if at all) available to the French public up to then. The German and Scandinavian composers represented included C. P. E. Bach, J. P. Kirnberger, J. A. P. Schultz and O. A. Lindeman. All the compositions in the four publications are for solo keyboard and contain a representative selection of various rules of composition in the Baroque era, both of a lighter character, such as fantasies and preludes, and also more serious compositions, like minuets, sonatas and fugues. A common trait of the composers whose works Tellefsen published through Richault is that they can all be linked with the tradition stemming directly from Johann Sebastian Bach.
Around the same time when Tellefsen was publishing his collections of eighteenth-century music for keyboard instruments, other musical works in the same tradition were being published, including Bach’s complete works for keyboard instruments and works by minor composers related directly to Bach. In this context, Tellefsen’s editions can be treated as an attempt to present the importance of Bach for later generations of musicians, in this case limited to German and Scandinavian lands after 1750. The publication of a whole booklet devoted to the works of C. P. E Bach signals that Tellefsen found this composer especially important.
Tellefsen's involvement in the publication of selected works by Jean-Philippe Rameau may similarly be considered an early attempt to reintroduce the works of this composer to a wider audience. The selection of Rameau’s compositions was published in 1857 under the title Pièces de clavecine en concert avec un violon et un violoncelle, publiées en 1712. Premier livraison, grand format. Tellefsen published these pieces in cooperation with a key figure in the historical music movement in Paris, François Delsarte (1811–1871). That probably resulted from their joint contribution to the historical concerts which were organised during the same period.
Tellefsen – publisher of Chopin
After Chopin’s funeral, his sister Ludwika gave the manuscripts of collected compositions to Tellefsen, who in 1860 published, through Richault in Paris, a twelve-volume Collection des oeuvres pour le piano par Frédéric Chopin en douze livraisons.
Georges Mathias (Harand, Lemoine aîné, Paris, c.1859) and Karol Mikuli (Kistner, Leipzig, 1879) are two other students of Chopin who published his works after the expiration of the copyright. Tellefsen’s edition was criticised by Mikuli as full of errors and omissions. A more objective look at the Norwegian composer's editing work shows that he copied numerous mistakes from the first editions of Chopin’s works. From among these early editions, Mikuli’s version is considered to be the most satisfactory. It gained widespread popularity and was reprinted a number of times.
Chopin’s school of piano playing
Chopin’s confidence in his pupil showed in many ways. Before his death, he expressed the wish that Tellefsen should finish the school of piano playing that he had planned, which was to include an analysis of playing style. Tellefsen started that work in 1850, but unfortunately was never able to finish it. The manuscript of the first fragments of the school is held in the Ringve Museum of Music in Trondheim.
In various letters, after the death of Chopin, Tellefsen tells of his plans:
“I cannot express how moved I was by the death of Chopin; […]. Before his death, he told his sister that I was to teach her daughter; which, as you may imagine, was a great honour for me. He also wanted me to finish his school for piano, and now I am diligently working on all this”. (Honfleur, 28 December 1849).
In a letter to his father written at Eagleton Castle in Scotland on 17 August 1850, he continues:
"This winter, I will simply try to really show myself in Paris, both through the publication of my six compositions and also thanks to my booklet, a treatise on piano playing technique, together with an analysis of Chopin’s playing method. I will then be presenting myself in three persons: as a composer, a writer and a performing pianist. Many would choose only one of them as their path in life; I, with God’s help, hope to be able to follow all three. I hope to send you at least part of it as a Christmas gift."