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The first dozen bars or so of the Nocturne in F minor, which together with the Nocturne in E flat major comprises opus 55, were written into the album of Elizabeth Sheremetev.

The opening theme, which is also the principal theme of this work, returns often, slightly altered nearly every time. It bears a melancholy that is deepened by the almost obsessive repetition of the initial melody, which proceeds in a tempo and rhythm characteristic of nocturne contemplation. This elegiac aura is contrasted with a brief counter-theme: music that escapes for a moment into a realm of brighter sonorities (A flat major), though it does so in vain.

All that we have heard up to this point was merely a foretaste of what is to follow. And follow it does. It takes the form of a collision between the violent octaves of an aggressive recitative and the calm strength of the chords that stand opposite. The tumult leads to a climax, a watershed. The exalted passage of the recitative leads the narrative back into the melancholy aura from which it emerged. Yet Chopin does not leave the listener in that mood till the end. Following the example of Bach, he closes the work with a ray of hope, by changing a single note, as a result of which the key of F minor becomes F major. For the pianist, it is a perilous moment, as one easily falls into a naive-sentimental mood. The famous pianist and editor Theodor Kullak summarised that passage from the minor to the major with an ironical sigh: ‘And so, thank God, the goal is reached!’

James Huneker wrote: ‘Something of Chopin’s delicate, tender warmth and spiritual voice is lost in larger spaces. In a small auditorium, and from the fingers of a sympathetic pianist, the nocturnes should be heard, that their intimate, night side may be revealed. […] They are essentially for the twilight, for solitary enclosures, where their still, mysterious tones […] become eloquent and disclose the poetry and pain of their creator.’

Author: Mieczysław Tomaszewski
[Cykl audycji "Fryderyka Chopina Dzieła Wszystkie"]
Polish Radio, program II


 
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Nocturne in F minor, Op. 55 No. 1 Op. 55 No. 1
 
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