Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Chopin's posthumous nocturnes

I remember having a monaural Columbia Masterworks recording of Eugene Istomin playing “the Chopin Nocturnes”, but I see that the 1955 recording had only the first ten of them (link).  I remember playing chess in the basement to this record.  That record got worn out by sapphire styli and heavy tracking in the days before record care (and piano on a worn record really breaks up and sounds horrible).   But recent attention to the posthumous nocturnes got my attention.
The last three of the nocturnes (list) seem to have been published posthumously.  Number 19 is in E Minor, and is the first item in Op 72.  Wikipedia says that 19 and 20 were written early, before Chopin left Poland for France. Number 20, in C# minor, was originally not a nocturne at all, but was in a three part form and is similar. 

Number 21, in C Minor, seems to be the most “popular” of the three, but seems rather florid and immature to my ear.  I think it is a very early composition.   It is a single melody, a song without words, with no separate middle section.   

Most of Chopin's smaller pieced have always seemed a bit frivolous and ornate to me.  The worst offender is the "Berceuse in D-flat" which is a bit of a predecessor for the Ravel Bolero.   I love the big Sonatas, Ballades, and the Scherzo #3.  

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