Recorded on 05/23/2006, uploaded on 01/21/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
The two nocturnes of Chopin’s opus 27 are undoubtedly among the finest of his compositions. Composed during his early years in Paris, they exhibit the incredible transformation he enacted upon the original nocturnes of Irish composer John Field. Here, Chopin’s artistic prowess effectively lifts the simple nocturnes which Field pioneered to a level of expression nearly equal to that of the ballade.
The Nocturne in C-sharp minor begins ambiguously with bare fifths, suggesting neither the major or minor mode and establishing an air of mystery. In the third measure begins the nocturne’s mystifying first theme; its initial rising chromatic figure creating an immediate sense of intrigue. Continuing on, the melody seems to float effortlessly above the rolling accompaniment and all has a ghostly and otherworldly quality. The central episode is more passionate and in its first measures it is not difficult to hear the subtle influence of Beethoven. Struggling as if to break free of the spellbinding first theme, the episode inevitably builds to a glorious outburst in E major—the fog of the first theme being dispelled by brilliant sunlight. The reprise of the opening melody is shortened and leads to a coda in the key of the tonic major. Unlike the middle section, the major key here is calm, reflecting still the mystical first theme.
One of Chopin’s most enduring compositions, the Nocturne in D-flat major is also one of his most sublime creations. Unlike its companion, the second nocturne evolves as out of a single melody—a solitary thought upon which it continually elaborates. This process pushes the music onward, building towards an inevitable climax. The moment is reached near the end of the nocturne in one of the most beautifully constructed cadences in music—a simple 4-3 suspension ornamented in a way only Chopin could. Following the cadence, the rest of the nocturne is dénouement, the last threads of thought working their way out until the music almost seems to float away in the rising scales leading to the final two chords. Joseph DuBose
The nocturne was invented by Irish composer John Field (1782-1837) but it was Polish composer and pianist Frederic Chopin who immortalized the genre. Chopin is often remembered as the composer of patriotic works such as Polonaises and Mazurkas. However, he gave free rein to melodic and harmonic invention in the nineteen nocturnes he wrote throughout his life. The nineteenth-century Romantic vision of the Night-with all imaginable moods ranging from fear to exaltation, despair to idealised love-is expressed in these works. Sodi Braide
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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