COMPOSITIONS compositions

Nocturne in F sharp major, incypit

Genre: Nocturne

Key: F-sharp major

Opus/WN: Op. 15 No. 2

Creation date: 1830-1833

Acc. to Paderewski: VII/5

Acc. to Turło: 112

Instruments: piano

Composition dedicated to:

Ferdynand Hiller


The middle of the three nocturnes of opus 15 was composed in the key of F sharp major. For the Romantics, the choice of a work’s key was generally made deliberately. In the opinion of Schumann, for the expression of simple feelings they would choose keys close to C major in the circle of fifths. They turned to more distant keys when they wished to express feelings, emotions or moods of a singular, subtle or unusual character. F sharp major is the most distant key of all.

This nocturne also has a reprise form. And here too the opening section, which is also the main part of this Nocturne, brings music that is ‘filled with sunlight, floral colours and blissful, languid tranquillity’, as Tadeusz Zieliński metaphorically puts it – music with a sound that is ‘warm and soft as velvet’. The principal theme is complemented by a captivating counter-theme, which proceeds (in F sharp minor) through a series of vertiginously soaring and dolcissimo falling phrases.

The middle section of this Nocturne is filled with music that is suddenly more brisk: different in key and texture, restless and mysterious. Chopin has it played doppio movimento, which means twice as quickly, but also sotto voce, and so with a softened voice. Thus in this Nocturne, the arrival of that music of a different character does not take on the form of an unexpected irruption. The use of dotted rhythms heightens the drama and leads to a climax, and then to a suspension on a stepwise phrase repeated with almost obsessive insistence.

The first monographers deemed the F sharp major Nocturne ‘the most beautiful of Chopin’s early nocturnes’. It also drew admiration from Jachimecki and Huneker. The latter was prepared to call the work’s expression the emanation of feelings. Jan Kleczyński devotes to it several pages of his small tome from 1883 entitled Chopin’s Greater Works. He gives hints for performance – he was a pupil of Marcelina Czartoryska – and endeavours to convey the work’s ‘narrative’ in words. This he does quite aptly, though of course in the language of his epoch. This is how he ‘summarises’ the drama of the Nocturne from the moment when the ‘middle section’ arrives: ‘Its soft and passionate beginning, its forcible though brief crescendo, its sudden fall to the pianissimo cause it to resemble some tempestuous episode in the expansive and peaceful life of a youthful soul. The first theme returns, and with it the calm and elegance, peculiar to the refined Chopin.’[i]

[i] Jean Kleczynski [Jan Kleczyński], Chopin’s Greater Works, tr. Natalie Janotha (London, n.d.), 34

Author: Mieczysław Tomaszewski
[Cykl audycji "Fryderyka Chopina Dzieła Wszystkie"]
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Nocturne in F sharp major, Op. 15 No. 2
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