Chopin – Nocturnes (Complete) Piano: Arthur Rubinstein

Polish American classical pianist Arthur Rubinstein plays Chopin nocturnes, 21 short pieces for solo piano written by Frédéric Chopin between 1827 and 1846.

Chopin – Nocturnes

Track list with starting times:

  1. Op.9 No.1 in B flat minor 00:00
  2. Op.9 No.2 in E flat major 05:25
  3. Op.9 No.3 in B major 09:51
  4. Op.15 No.1 in F major 16:39
  5. Op.15 No.2 in F sharp major 20:58
  6. Op.15 No.3 in G minor 24:55
  7. Op.27 No.1 in C sharp minor 29:57
  8. Op.27 No.2 in D flat major 35:35
  9. Op.32 No.1 in B major 41:48
  10. Op.32 No.2 in A flat major 46:28
  11. Op.37 No.1 in G minor 52:15
  12. Op.37 No.2 in G major 58:35
  13. Op.48 No.1 in C minor 01:05:28
  14. Op.48 No.2 in F sharp minor 01:11:19
  15. Op.55 No.1 in F minor 01:18:37
  16. Op.55 No.2 in E flat major 01:24:16
  17. Op.62 No.1 in B major 01:30:05
  18. Op.62 No.2 in E major 01:36:55
  19. Op.72 No.1 in E minor 01:42:13

A nocturne (from the French which meant nocturnal, from Latin nocturnus) is usually a musical composition that is inspired by, or evocative of, the night. Historically, nocturne is a very old term applied to night Offices and, since the Middle Ages, to divisions in the canonical hour of Matins.

The Chopin nocturnes constitute 21 short pieces for solo piano written by Frédéric Chopin between 1827 and 1846. They are generally considered among the finest short solo works for the instrument and hold an important place in contemporary concert repertoire.

Although Chopin did not invent the nocturne, he popularized and expanded on it, building on the form developed by Irish composer John Field (26 July 1782 [?], baptised 5 September 1782 – 23 January 1837), the Irish pianist, composer, and teacher. He was born in Dublin into a musical family, and received his early education there. The Fields soon moved to London, where Field studied under Muzio Clementi. Under his tutelage, Field quickly became a famous and sought-after concert pianist; together, master and pupil visited Paris, Vienna, and St. Petersburg. Ambiguity surrounds Field’s decision to remain in the Russian capital, but it is likely that Field acted as a sales representative for the Clementi Pianos.

Field was very highly regarded by his contemporaries and his playing and compositions influenced many major composers, including Frédéric Chopin, Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann, and Franz Liszt. Field is best known as the instigator of the nocturne, but there is evidence to suggest that this is a posthumous accolade. Although little is known of Field in Russia, he undoubtedly contributed substantially to concerts and teaching, and to the development of the Russian piano school.

The nocturnes numbered 1 to 18 were published during his life, in twos or threes, in the order of composition. Numbers 19 and 20 were actually written first, prior to Chopin’s departure from Poland, but published posthumously. Number 20 was not originally entitled “nocturne” at all, but since publication in 1870 as such, is generally included with publications and recordings of the set.

By the time of Chopin’s birth in 1810, John Field was already an accomplished composer. Eventually, the young Chopin became a great admirer of Field, taking some influence from the Irish composer’s playing and composing technique. He had composed five of his nocturnes before meeting Field for the first time.

In his youth, Chopin was often told that he sounded like Field, who in turn was later described as sounding “Chopinesque.” The composer Friedrich Kalkbrenner, one of Chopin’s greatest influences and early teachers, once inquired as to whether Chopin was a student of Field. While Chopin held Field in high respect and considered him one of his primary influences, Field had a rather negative view of Chopin’s work. Upon meeting Chopin and hearing his nocturnes in 1832, Field is said to have described the composer as a “sickroom talent.” Nonetheless, Chopin still admired Field and his work and continued to take inspiration throughout his life.

Chopin’s nocturnes carry many similarities with those of Field while at the same time retaining a distinct, unique sound of their own. One aspect of the nocturne that Chopin continued from Field is the use of a song-like melody in the right hand. This is one of the most if not the most important features to the nocturne as a whole. The use of the melody as vocals bestowed a greater emotional depth to the piece, drawing the listener in to a greater extent. Along with the right-hand melody, Chopin continued the use of another nocturne “necessity,” that of playing broken chords on the left hand to act as the rhythm under his right-handed “vocal” melody. Another technique used by Field and continued by Chopin was the more extensive use of the pedal. By using the pedal more, the music gains more emotional expression through sustained notes, giving the piece an aura of drama. With these main attributes of the “Field nocturne” Chopin was inspired, and expanded upon them to develop the “Chopin nocturne.”

One of the greatest innovations made by Chopin to the nocturne was his use of a more freely flowing rhythm, a technique based on the classical music style. Also, Chopin further developed the structure of the nocturne, taking inspiration from the Italian and French opera arias, as well as the sonata form. Composer Franz Liszt even insisted that Chopin’s nocturnes were influenced by Vincenzo Bellini’s “bel canto” arias, a statement affirmed and echoed by many in the music world. A further innovation of Chopin’s was his use of counterpoint to create tension in the nocturnes, a method that even further expanded the dramatic tone and feel of the piece itself. It was mainly through these themes of operatic influence, freer rhythms, and an expansion into more complex structures and melodic playing that Chopin made his mark on the nocturne. Many think of the “Chopin nocturne” as a mix between the form and structure of Field and the sound of Mozart, displaying a classic/romantic-influenced theme within the music.

Sources

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