Tablet - Portrait

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Frédéric Chopin

The pair of Nocturnes contained in Frédéric Chopin's fourth published entry in the genre, Opus 32 (published in 1837 and dedicated to Mme. la Baronne de Billing), are something of a let down after the brilliance and grace of the Opus 27 pair. Though each of the Opus 32 pieces is characteristic of the composer's approach to Nocturne form (or, perhaps, approaches, as the two are really quite different from one another, and yet can each still be related to several other Nocturnes), the steady stream of craftsmanship that marked the previous pair of Nocturnes (and also the following, Opus 37, pair) seems not so reliable here: in each of the Opus 32 nocturnes moments of originality and power stick out in a way that they might not had the entirety of the pieces been sewn of finer silk. The Nocturne in A-flat major, Op.32, No.2 would, some seventy years after its original composition, become one of the most important parts of the famous ballet Les Sylphides (one of the most popular ballets in the repertoire, Les Sylphides consists solely of orchestrations of Chopin's music, despite the fact that the composer would certainly have disapproved of both the orchestration of such quintessentially pianistic music and the adaptation of the same to serve in such a role). Indeed, the graceful triple meter flow of the work makes it easy to see why the choreographers selected this mild work as a kind of centerpiece. The Nocturne opens with a very brief (two bar), almost rhythmless introduction (a chorale-like plagal cadence figure that also serves as the works final gesture), after which the body of the Nocturne begins. Like the previous Nocturne, simplicity of gesture is of the utmost importance throughout the opening section of the A-flat Nocturne. A stormier, more chromatic middle section, however, marks this second Nocturne as fundamentally different than the first. The ternary (ABA) form of the work demands a repetition of the earlier section; it seems, however, to have been infected by the agitated atmosphere of the Nocturne's center, and it takes the reprise some time to recapture the gentleness that is its rightful tone. The opening two bars, now pianissimo, serve as a coda.