Recorded on 03/31/2010, uploaded on 08/05/2010
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Several composers have written berceuses, or cradle songs. An early, and one might even say pioneering, example of such is Frédéric Chopin’s Berceuse in D-flat major, op. 57. Composed while he spent the summer of 1843 with Aurore Dupin Dudevant, better known as George Sand, at her home in Nohant, the story goes that Chopin was inspired to compose the piece by the young daughter of Pauline Viardot who had been left in Sand’s care. Whether there is any truth to this assertion is unknown but the anecdote nevertheless lends the piece a picturesque Romantic imagery.
A relatively short piece, the Berceuse unfolds from a single melody in a process of continual variation. In a circular fashion, the variations become ever more ornamented as the piece progresses and then, at the end, return to a simpler expression until the original melody is once again reached in the final measures. In the usual 6/8 meter, the gently swaying ostinato pattern of the accompaniment is established in the opening two measures. Indeed, the piece never departs from the pedal D-flat established in these measures until the final cadence. Following this peaceful introduction, the Berceuse’s dolce four-bar melody is stated. The succeeding variations are at first contrapuntal but soon become dominated by florid, pianistic ornamentation. Yet, through all of this, no matter how highly ornamented the melody is, the gentle accompaniment remains unchanged. The climax of the piece comes in an ascending chromatic line rising into the upper reaches of the piano followed by series of embellished trills. The music then seems to float back to earth and into the final variations. In the final measures, the theme returns in its original simplicity and gently fades away into the concluding cadence. Joseph DuBose
Berceuse literally means cradle song, and this is Chopin's lullaby to thank novelist Aurore Dupin Dudevant, better known by her pseudonym George Sand, for Chopin's summer stay at her home in Nohant, France. Some have suggested that the inspiration for this lullaby was for the young daughter of singer Pauline Viardot, who had left the child in the care of Sand during that summer. Pia Bose
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