COMPOSITIONS compositions

Nocturne in G major, incypit

Genre: Nocturne

Key: G major

Opus/WN: Op. 37 No. 2

Creation date: 1839

Acc. to Paderewski: VII/12

Instruments: piano


The Nocturne in G major – the second of the pair – is filled by Chopin with joy and light, but also with reflection. It represents the romance, rather than elegy, tradition: it is played out in an atmosphere not of meditation, but of some peculiar kind of dreaminess.

The two themes take turns in the limelight, creating a form not previously known. They are one more lovely than the other. James Huneker had no hesitation in deeming the second theme to be ‘the most beautiful melody Chopin ever wrote’. That second theme is indeed quite delightful, although it is not easy to single out the features that make it so exceptional. Is it the masterful simplicity, songfulness and calm that it brings? Or the subtle, barely sketched harmonisation? Or perhaps the scarcely perceptible dance character, of Sicilian provenance?

One of the chief properties of Chopin’s nocturnes is the subtlety and suppleness of their harmonies, the skill with which the harmony is shaded and surprising modulations are employed. In the Nocturne in G major, Chopin surpassed even himself in that respect.

And thus we find ourselves far from Bellini, perhaps even from bel canto and from eroticism – in its sensual and exalted variety. Someone once called the siciliana melody from the G major Nocturne a heavenly tune. The instrument’s song remains.

Arthur Rubinstein encapsulated the way he heard Chopin succinctly: ‘above all, he made the piano sing’. But the song of Chopin’s piano is also speech – full of profound meaning, and the speech of feelings. In the G major Nocturne, those feelings are expressed in confidential, hushed and perhaps strangely pure speech.

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


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