Frédéric Chopin

Nocturnes (2) for piano, Op. 32, CT. 116-117

    Description by Blair Johnston

    The pair of nocturnes contained in Frédéric Chopin's fourth published entry in the genre, Op. 32 (published in 1837 and dedicated to Mme. la Baronne de Billing) are something of a letdown after the brilliance and grace of the Op. 27 pair. Though each of the Op. 32 pieces exemplifies one of the composer's various approaches to nocturne form, the steady stream of craftsmanship that marked the previous pair of nocturnes (and also the following, Op. 37, pair) seems not so reliable here: in each of the Op. 32 nocturnes, moments of originality and power stick out in a way that they couldn't have, had the entirety of the pieces been sewn of finer silk.

    Chopin composed three nocturnes in the key of B major; the Nocturne in B major, Op. 32, No. 1, is chronologically in the middle, and has found its way onto concert programs far less frequently than either of the other two. Following on the heels of the highly decorated Nocturne in D flat major, Op. 27, No. 2, this first piece in the set sings a tune of great simplicity. Decoration is kept to a minimum (for Chopin) -- the watery texture and unassuming accompaniment make this easily one of the most "Classical" works ever penned by the composer. Of interest is the way that the main theme, an exercise in modesty and sweetness, is broken off during each presentation by a sudden, unexpected silence (each time reasserting itself by means of the captivating cadence that immediately follows this unwanted intrusion). The finest detail of this small work, by far, is its unexpectedly dramatic coda. A change of both mode (from major to minor) and texture (from quiet and unassuming to stormy and recitativo) make the conclusion a complete contrast to the first two thirds of the piece. There is no last-minute reprise of the opening atmosphere: the work ends, sullenly, with a sustained B natural in the bass.

    The Nocturne in A flat major, Op. 32, No. 2, would, some 70 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. 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 work's 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 form (ABA) 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.

    Parts/Movements

    1. No. 9 in B major, Il lamento e la consolazione 1, Andante sostenuto
    2. No. 10 in A flat major, Il lamento e la consolazione 2, Lento

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 RCA Red Seal 88985499992
    2018 Aevea AE 17044
    2017 IBA [Idil Biret Archives] 8501503
    2017 Claves 501719
    2017 Claves
    2017 Alpha 359
    2017 Erato 0190295869205
    2017 Three Oranges Recordings 3OR 25
    2017 Navona Records NV 6123
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon 4797371
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4795448
    2014 Rewind REW 518
    2014 RCA Red Seal 88843003502
    2013 Warner Classics
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099967873
    2012 EMI Classics
    2012 Zephyr Records Z 14311
    2012 Apex
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    2011 RCA Red Seal 886919369120
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779908
    2011 Pavane ADW 75323
    2011 ZYX Music CLABOX 005
    2010 Cascavelle 3141
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 002894778445
    2010 Oehms Classics 779
    2010 Calliope 3351
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4775718
    2010 Zig Zag Territoires 1002032
    2010 Harmonia Mundi 50143031
    2010 Sony Classical 88697690412
    2010 EMI Classics
    2010 RCA Red Seal / Sony Classical 88697704062
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099945535
    2010 Decca 4782282
    2010 Decca 478 218-2
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    2009 Deutsche Grammophon 4778167
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    2009 Sony BMG / Sony Classical 88697577072
    2009 Dux Records 650
    2009 X5 Music Group 15582
    2008 ZYX Music CLS 1018
    2008 Bridge 9276
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    2008 Brilliant Classics 93217
    2008 ZYX Classics 100522
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099950966
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    2008 Arte Nova Classics 304941
    2008 Hyperion 44351
    2008 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93529
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    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 000580402
    2006 Brilliant 99802
    2005 Harmonia Mundi 2901430/31
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 4775242
    2004 Cascavelle 3064
    2004 Hyperion CDA67371/2
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    2002 Camerata Records 20CM634/5
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    2001 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) / BCI-Eclipse Distribution 545
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    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 463 047-2GCE17
    1999 Naxos 501501
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    1999 Agora Musica 232
    1999 Naxos 554531
    1999 Grammofono 2000 78861
    1999 RCA Red Seal 63000
    1998 Hyperion CDD22013
    1997 The Piano Library 225
    1997 Teldec 18949
    1997 Point 265044
    1997 Concord 42044
    1997 Eclipse Records 64354
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453 022-2GTA2
    1997 London 452579
    1997 Philips 456336
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    1996 Harmonia Mundi 7901430
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 447096
    1995 Vox 5146
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    1995 ZYX Music 4140
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    1994 Philips 442266
    1994 Madacy 5435
    1993 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0777764933
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    1993 Harmonia Mundi 901430
    1993 Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 254
    1992 Teldec 72297
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    1992 Naxos 550356
    1992 Decca 430751
    1991 Elektra 79233
    1991 Deutsche Grammophon 431586
    1991 RCA Victor GD60822
    1990 Hyperion 66341/2
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    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 429154
    1988 Deutsche Grammophon 423916
    1986 Philips 416 440-2PH2
    Philips 468391
    EMI Music Distribution 55073
    Classic World Productions, Inc. 5002
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    Connoisseur Society CD4211
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