In her answer to Liszt's B minor sonata crescendo, user @Madeleine writes:

In many places in Chopin's music, he wrote hairpins ... to indicate rubato rather than a crescendo or decrescendo.

The answer itself doesn't include any further reference(s).

  1. Did Chopin use hairpins in this way?
  2. Is the answer to #1 a matter of primary documentation, later scholarship, tradition, or individual interpretation?

2 Answers 2


It wasn't limited to Chopin; the hairpin symbols weren't universally tied to dynamics until the twentieth century. Before then, usage was a little more varied. A good source for this is David Hyun-Su Kim. "The Brahmsian Hairpin." 19th-Century Music 36, no. 1 (2012): 46-57.

  • Whaat? This has just blown my mind. Do you have any references to anything online? Nov 23, 2020 at 10:36

Besides the source mentioned by TobyRush, there is a very readable and extensive (60+ pages) discussion of this in Chapter 1 of "The Secret Life of Musical Notation" by Roberto Poli (Amadeus Press 2010). Particular attention is given to Chopin, but Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt and others are also covered.

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