COMPOSITIONS compositions

Nocturne in E flat major, Op. 55 No. 2 incypit

Genre: Nocturne

Key: E-flat major

Opus/WN: Op. 55 No. 2

Creation date: 1843

Acc. to Paderewski: VII/16

Acc. to Turło: 123

Instruments: piano

Composition dedicated to:

Jane Wilhelmina Stirling


The music of the second of the opus 55 nocturnes has been referred to as ‘notated improvisation’. Here, Chopin expresses his thoughts out loud, in music. Or perhaps meditation rather than thoughts, as it begins, but seems never to end, presaging Wagner’s unending melodies. The narration proceeds at a slow, restrained tempo (lento sostenuto), in the most long-breathed metre possible: 12/8. The melody flows along in solitude, against an unusually expansive accompaniment, though that solitude is interrupted every so often by the voice of the accompaniment, complementing (like a contrapuntal, chromaticised shadow) the upper part – crystal clear and sublime.

The Nocturne in E flat major, Op. 55 No. 2 has a distinctive design, not found among Chopin’s other nocturnes. Here, contrast (between sections) is replaced by a continuous undulation of the melodic narrative: between piano and forte, between the swelling and abatement of emotions. One might even be excused for not noticing that the music of the second phase of this two-phase work repeats the music of the first phase, albeit in variation.

The music of the nocturnes has exerted a powerful and immediate fascination over listeners. This was expressed by the Paris critic Hippolyte Barbedette, one of Chopin’s first biographers, in a manner that might even arouse surprise: ‘Chopin’s nocturnes’, he wrote in his study of the composer in 1861, ‘are perhaps his greatest claim to fame; they are his most perfect works’. That is how they were seen in Paris during the mid nineteenth century. Barbedette explained the reason for their success as follows: ‘That loftiness of ideas, purity of form and almost invariably that stamp of dreamy melancholy’.

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


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