3 Nocturnes : Work information
- Work name
- 3 Nocturnes
- Work number
- Op. 15
- 1832-01-01 02:01:00
- Richard Kapp
- Mikhail Liberman
- Recording date
- 1991-08-01 00:00:00
Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin
Since all that survives of Chopin is the brilliant music that he wrote, it's all too easy to forget that he was also a great performer. He wrote difficult and innovative music so that he could perform it himself.
Chopin’s father was a French schoolteacher, and his mother was Polish. He grew up in Warsaw, Poland, and studied music as a child, and then at the Warsaw Conservatory between 1826 and 1829. He had already published several pieces of music, and during 1829 and 1830 he became well-known as a pianist, giving concerts in Warsaw and Vienna. He composed almost all of his music for the piano (although sometimes with orchestral accompaniment). He tended to write his music actually at the piano, sometimes struggling to put his ideas onto paper. But he was unhappy in Poland and set off on a European tour, stopping in 1831 in Paris, one of the great musical centres of Europe.
Here, Chopin was praised as a musician by such composers as Liszt and Schumann , among others, and rapidly became famous. He played mostly for private audiences, although he did give a few public performances, and he was particularly known for his skill at improvising. He would use many of the musical ideas and styles from Polish folk music, and many of his compositions are directly linked to Polish dances and musical forms, such as the Mazurka. Chopin also established himself as a teacher, and many of his compositions were written to be used by his pupils, such as studies, preludes, waltzes, nocturnes, mazurkas and impromptus. These pieces are not perhaps as difficult as the larger-scale works he produced for concert performance, such as the scherzos, ballades, sonatas and the barcarolle, which were written for himself to perform.
Chopin was very inventive in the way he wrote music. While in form it was often quite simple - basically a tune and an accompaniment - it was often full of variation and interest. He used the sustaining pedal of the piano in a way which composers had not done before, and produced a delicacy both when playing and when composing which was considered highly innovative. This made it very popular, and his music was published in Paris, London and Leipzig. As a measure of Chopin’s popularity and fame, when he died of tuberculosis in 1849, 3,000 people attended his funeral.
The term 'Nocturne', when applied to piano music, was first coined in 1812 by the Irish composer John Field. His nocturnes established the defining characteristics of the genre: a lyrical melody accompanied by broken chords. However, it was the 21 examples by Chopin that raised the Nocturne to new artistic heights and popularity.
The three nocturnes published as Op. 15 were written between 1830 and 1833 and display a greater degree of melodic variety than the Op. 9 set. No. 2 with its wistful atmosphere is particularly attractive in this regard.
The left hand also begins to move away from the broken chords of Field's model. No. 1, for example, features a new accompanying figuration to the right hand's cantilena-style melody not seen in previous nocturnes.
Structurally No. 3 is the most unusual. After the gentle religioso section, the nocturne does not return to the music of the first section but explores a new modal idea before ending on a major chord.