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Composed: 1830–33

About this Piece

As much as Benjamin Britten bristled at the “old idea” of a brooding creator working through the night (quipping that “nighttime is for sleeping”), the eerie calm of the dark has motivated many composers, perhaps none more famously than Frédéric Chopin. Inspired by Irishman John Field who pioneered the Romantic nocturne style—though even Mozart wrote several notturnos—Chopin’s nocturnes were celebrated by his contemporaries and remain some of his most enduring works.

A nocturne is a short character piece for piano that evokes some aspect of the night, ranging from wistful melancholy to longing. The left hand plays broken chords as an accompaniment to the right hand’s often vocal-styled melody. While the technical demands are simple, nocturnes are expressively open to the pianist to linger or add a lilt to a phrasebefitting their dreamy nocturnal character. The first of the present two pieces (Op. 15, No. 1) is broken into an A-B-A structure, shifting abruptly from a pastoral theme to a stormy second theme before resolving peacefully. The Op. 9, No. 3 nocturne has a similar ternary structure but is written in a triplet meter with a waltz-like melody that was unusual for the genre. The dance shifts into a dramatic second theme, before returning to the nostalgic and light opening material. —Ricky O’Bannon