Frédéric Chopin: Nocturnes

Op. 9, no. 2 (Eb major)
Op. 15, no. 3 (G minor)
Op. 27, no. 1 (C-sharp minor)
Op. 27, no. 2 (Db major)

Chopin, while Polish by birth established his career in Paris, where his music was well received in intimate venues. In an article in Revue Musicale in 1832, François-Joseph Fétis wrote that Chopin “has found, if not a complete renewal of pianoforte music, at least a part of what has been sought in vain for a long time—namely an abundance of original idea of which the type is to be found nowhere.” His style, as represented in his Nocturnes, retained a classical conception of form, while exploring richer sonorities of the piano and extending melodic construction in the manner of the bel canto style from
Italian opera. Gerald Abraham observed that [Chopin] had an instinct amounting to genius for inventing melodies that would be actually ineffective if sung or played on an instrument of sustaining tone but which, picked out in percussive points of sound each beginning to die as soon as born, are enchanting and give an illusion of singing that is often lovelier than singing itself.

While the Nocturnes are not in any way programmatic, one of Chopin’s most famous Nocturnes, in Eb major (Op.9, No.2) does have some romantic connections. It was written in 1929, when Chopin was in love with a singer: Konstancja Gladkowska (Chopin also set songs in this period which reflected sentiments of love). In September 1835, Chopin would send a card to Maria Wodzinsky, his latest love interest: the theme from bars of the Eb major Nocturne was quoted on the front, on the other side: “be happy”.

© Greg Smith, 2009