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The melody of the Nocturne in C minor unfolds lento and mezzo voce (slowly and half-voice). The opening notes do not flow, but fall – amid rests – like words of existential weight. Tadeusz Zieliński aptly opines that the melody of the Nocturne ‘sounds like a lofty, inspired song filled with the gravity of its message, genuine pathos and a tragic majesty’. With every bar, the melody moves closer to the point of culmination, before plummeting downwards in a tense, expressively rhapsodic recitative and immersing itself in the contemplative sounds of a chorale. The chorale grows in strength, despite the fact that the violent music of double octaves forces its way in between its chords. André Gide called this moment ‘the sudden irruption of […] wind-blasts’. For the reprise of the opening theme, Gide found the following description: ‘a triumph of the spiritual element over the elements unleashed at the beginning’.[i] There is indeed something uniquely grand in the way the form here masters the emotions, which are packed with sound.

Kleczyński heard in this music ‘the soul’s disquietude’.[ii] Marceli Antoni Szulc had the impression that ‘this magnificent hymn is proclaimed not by a feeble piano, but by a mighty organ – midst the sound of trombones and kettle drums’. Ferdynand Hoesick recalled that the C minor Nocturne in Paderewski’s rendition gave the impression of a true ‘eroica’ among Chopin’s nocturnes.

[i] André Gide, Notes on Chopin, tr. Bernard Frechtman (New York, 1949), 97–98.

[ii] Jean Kleczynski [Jan Kleczyński], Chopin’s Greater Works, tr. Natalie Janotha (London, n.d.), 42.

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


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Janusz Olejniczak

Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48 No. 1
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