Recorded on 01/01/2012, uploaded on 03/26/2012
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
In the early 1870s, Tchaikovsky had yet to win his fame as one of Russia’s leading composer. His triumphs as a composer were few and outnumbered by defeats, and he earned a living mainly as a professor at the Moscow Conservatory and a music critic. However, his duties afforded him access to a wide range of European music and his skills as a composer in turn grew. Two of the youthful pieces to come from this period of Tchaikovsky’s career are the Nocturne and Humoresque that make up his opus 10. While the Humoresque has become the more popular of the two pieces with orchestral arrangements by Leopold Stokowski and Igor Stravinsky, the Nocturne is nonetheless a beautiful piano miniature. Differing from the nocturnes of John Field and Frederic Chopin in its abandonment of compound meter for a straightforward duple, Tchaikovsky’s Nocturne still invokes the calm and evocative imagery one expects of such a character piece. Marked with the composer’s favorite tempo marking, Andante cantabile, the melody, sitting atop a delicate accompaniment of softly broken chords, at once seems too ornate to be considered song-like but nonetheless possesses a haunting vocal quality. The middle episode leaves behind the tonic key of F and ventures into the distant key of A major. The music becomes slightly more animated with persistent sixteenth notes, though restrained in volume, and an eerie effect is achieved with chords a tritone apart. A modestly embellished return of the opening section rounds out the Nocturne’s ternary design, but a cadenza leads into a coda based on the central episode, bringing the Nocturne to a restless conclusion. Joseph DuBose
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