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The nocturne, literally a "night piece," was the invention of the Irish pianist and composer John Field, but Chopin established the genre as a fixture in romantic piano literature. The Nocturne in D-flat of Op. 27 may be the definitive example of the melancholy songfulness of these pieces (Chopin wrote 18). But as we know, the night is never a time for uninterrupted calm. Indications in the score may begin with dolce (sweetly), but in the turbulent middle sections there are calls for forte and fortissimo and appassionato.

- Grant Hiroshima is executive director of a private foundation in Chicago and the former Director of Technology Development for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.