Chopin, Nocturne in B flat major, opus 9 nr. 1

It must have been at least twelve years ago since my first encounter with the Nocturnes of Frédéric Chopin. I visited a friend at home, and on the piano I saw the nocturnes laying down. I opened the book, saw the first nocturne and was scared by the apparent difficulty of the music. I put it aside and would only start to play it years later.

This very nocturne is the subject of this post. It was composed by Chopin in 1830-1831, the period in which he moved from Poland to Paris. The inspiration for his nocturnes came from John Field, an Irish pianist and composer, who is seen as the inventor of the nocturne. The word ‘nocturne’ comes from the Latin word for ‘night’; the nocturnes are ‘romantic character pieces in a somewhat melancholy style, with an expressive, dreamy melody over broken-chord accompaniment’ (see here). Like the nocturne of today, most of them are written in A-B-A form: a theme, a second part, and repetition of the theme in an adapted form.

My favorite way to play this piece is late in the evening, dim the lights in the house, and slowly dissolve in the world of sounds that Chopin creates. I would suggest you do the same when you listen to the following recording of this nocturne by Vladimir Ashkenazy.

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