Recorded on 02/17/2010, uploaded on 06/24/2010
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Whereas John Field invented the Nocturne—a short composition for piano, adhering to no set formal pattern and designed to evoke a particular mood without text or programme—Chopin popularized it. His twenty-one Nocturnes, two of which were published posthumously, are staples of the piano literature and brilliantly showcase the expressive qualities of the instrument.
The first of Chopin’s Nocturnes to be published posthumously, that in C-sharp minor, was actually composed in 1830, the same year as his Second Concerto for the piano. Indeed, Chopin dedicated the short composition to his older sister, Ludwika, with the inscription, “To my sister Ludwika as an exercise before beginning the study of my second Concerto.” Opening with a twice-repeated chordal passage in the dusky key of C-sharp minor, an immediate sense of despair is established, prevailing over the entire composition. Following the conclusion of this brief introduction, a legato melody full of pathos sounds from the right hand while the left provides a steady broken chord accompaniment. This simple almost song-like texture dominates much of the piece. At the conclusion of the Nocturne’s first section, a descending monophonic line in the bass leads into the key of A major. However, this transition to the major key is but short-lived and the key of F-sharp minor soon after takes hold. Maintaining the same mood as before, the middle section adopts a slightly more active rhythm in its melody as well as also embellishing it with additional harmonies. Rounding out the ternary design of the Nocturne, the first section returns somewhat modified. The melody eventually comes to rest on G-sharp over alternating tonic and dominant harmonies before concluding in a beautiful and ethereal Picardy third. Joseph DuBose
As we celebrate the bicentennial of Chopin's birth this year, I couldn't help but revisit the life and legacy the composer left behind. His contemporary, Robert Schumann, declared, "Hats off gentlemen! A genius!" and he described Chopin's music as "cannons concealed in flowers." Much of Chopin's compositional life was spent outside his native Poland. His love for his country and agony over the invasion of Warsaw were conveyed entirely through his musical compositions.
The Nocturne in c-sharp minor was written in 1830, but not published until after his death. The piece embodies a sense of tranquility and serenity, as if all the pains and sorrow for a moment were pushed aside. Merely four minutes in length, the piece brings the audience out of the reality of the harsh world and transcends into a world of peace. Sha Wang
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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