COMPOSITIONS compositions

Nocturne in E minor [Op. 72] incypit

Genre: Nocturne

Key: E minor

Opus/WN: [Op. 72]

Creation date: 1828-1830

Acc. to Fontana: 72

Acc. to Paderewski: VII/19

Acc. to Turło: 126

Instruments: piano


The Nocturne in E minor, published after the composer’s death by Julian Fontana, was deemed by him to be a work from Chopin’s youth, from the year 1827. That date was taken as indisputable. However, Zdzisław Jachimecki wondered at this Nocturne’s ‘delightful sound’. Accepting Fontana’s dating as secure, he could only conclude that he was dealing with ‘a clear augury of the supreme master of the nocturnes’, and that the ending of this Nocturne sounded like ‘a prophecy of the brilliant Nocturne in C sharp minor’.

Tadeusz Zieliński ventured to question Fontana’s dating, wondering if this was not in fact the last of Chopin’s nocturnes, not published for some unknown reason, but tending to indicate, with its emotional maturity and compositional excellence, the last years of Chopin’s life and work.

One is tempted to support that hypothesis by placing further question marks against the previously accepted date. Careful listening to the E minor Nocturne and a discerning awareness of its form allow us to state that in some respects it is similar to the Nocturne in E flat major, Op. 55 No. 2, published by Chopin in 1844. They both display a two-phase form that is unique to the nocturnes, in which the second phase merely reinforces the first. In both, the cantilena of the melody flows along over a regular triple rhythm in the accompaniment. Also in both nocturnes, the second phase features a change from a smooth melody to an agitated recitative, expressively embellished with rapid scale passages and trills.

The question arises as to why Chopin did not publish the Nocturne in E minor. Well, the answer seems obvious. Although it does possess irrefutable qualities, noted and appreciated by Chopin scholars, it cannot compare with the Nocturne in E flat major. Secondly, it is too similar to the latter in many respects. Not in every respect, however. It is certainly more nostalgic than the E flat major, written with less distance and, as Jachimecki put it, reflects ‘a melancholy state of mind’.

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


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