Nocturnes, Op. 9 (Chopin)

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The opening bars and main theme of No.1.

The Nocturnes, Op. 9 are a set of three nocturnes written by Frédéric Chopin between 1830 and 1832, published that year, and dedicated to Madame Camille Pleyel. The second nocturne of the work is widely regarded as Chopin's most famous piece, and is regularly featured in films, television programs and video games.[1][2]

Nocturne in B-flat minor, Op. 9, No. 1[edit]

The second theme
Courtesy of Musopen

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This nocturne has a rhythmic freedom that came to characterise Chopin's later work. The left hand has an unbroken sequence of eighth notes in simple arpeggios throughout the entire piece, while the right hand moves with freedom in patterns of seven, eleven, twenty, and twenty-two notes.

The opening section moves into a contrasting middle section, which flows back to the opening material in a transitional passage where the melody floats above seventeen consecutive bars of D-flat major chords. The reprise of the first section grows out of this and the nocturne concludes peacefully with a Picardy third.

Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 9, No. 2[edit]

Performed by Martha Goldstein on an 1851 Erard piano.

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Chopin composed his most popular Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 9, No. 2 when he was about twenty.

This popular nocturne is in rounded binary form (A, A, B, A, B, A) with coda, C. The A and B sections become increasingly ornamented with each recurrence. The penultimate bar utilizes considerable rhythmic freedom, indicated by the instruction, senza tempo (without tempo). Nocturne in E-flat major opens with a legato melody, mostly played piano, containing graceful upward leaps which becomes increasingly wide as the line unfolds. This melody is heard again three times during the piece. With each repetition, it is varied by ever more elaborate decorative tones and trills. The nocturne also includes a subordinate melody, which is played with rubato.

A sonorous foundation for the melodic line is provided by the widely spaced notes in the accompaniment, connected by the damper pedal. The waltz-like accompaniment gently emphasizes the 12/8 meter, 12 beats to the measure subdivided into four groups of 3 beats each.

The nocturne is reflective in mood until it suddenly becomes passionate near the end. The new concluding melody begins softly but then ascends to a high register and is played forcefully in octaves, eventually reaching the loudest part of the piece, marked fortissimo. After a trill-like passage, the excitement subsides; the nocturne ends calmly.

The opening bars and main theme.
A part of the "C" theme.

Analysis[edit]

  • John Rink "Structural momentum and closure in Chopin's Nocturne Op 9 No 2" in Schenker Studies 2 (ed. Carl Schachter, Hedi Siegel) pp102–127 Cambridge University Press, 2006 ISBN 0-521-02832-9, ISBN 978-0-521-02832-5.
  • Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger "Nocturne op. 9/2, E flat major" in Chopin: pianist and teacher as seen by his pupils (ed. Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger, Roy Howat) pp77–79 Cambridge University Press, 1989 ISBN 0-521-36709-3, ISBN 978-0-521-36709-7.
  • Eleanor Bailie "Nocturne No. 2 in E flat major" in Chopin: a graded practical guide (Eleanor Bailie, Issue 3 of The pianist's repertoire) pp303–306 Kahn & Averill, 1998 ISBN 1-871082-67-6, ISBN 978-1-871082-67-8.

In popular culture[edit]

  • Exodus (1960) Katherine "Kitty" Fremont (Eva Marie Saint) has a discussion with Gen. Sutherland (Ralph Richardson) about the fate of Jewish internees in Cyprus with a background drone of Nocturnes Op. 9, No. 2.[2]
  • Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (1975) Nocturne No. 2 accompanies the 'Pawpet Show', and is also played over the closing credits.
  • Saturday Night Fever (1977) A small section plays in the background of the dance studio about half an hour into the film.
  • The Blue Lagoon (1980) Emmeline's music box plays Nocturne No. 2.
  • Friends (1994-2004) In season 6 episode 16, The One That Could Have Been: Part 2, Nocturne No. 2 is playing as Fat Monica tries to seduce Richard into taking her virginity.
  • Waking Life (2001) Nocturne is played in the background of scene in the bar during various interviews (approx. 39 minutes into film).
  • Bad Santa (2003) Played during the opening sequence that transitions into the titular character being shown in a bar. In pursuit of the policie in the end of the movie, hear Op. 9, No. 2.
  • Dexter (TV series) (2007) Debra Morgan listens to Op.9, No. 2 on season 2 episode 7 while working out at the gym.
  • Rock n Rolla (2008) The nocturne is playing in the background for the scene when Gerard Butler gives the money to Thandie Newton and describes fighting off the Russian grunts.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers (2009) In episode 6, the piece is played by Austria during a campfire scene.
  • Muse (2009) used parts of it in their song "United States of Eurasia" Where the piece is the last 2 minutes of the song. They called it "Collateral Damage"
  • 127 Hours (2010)[3] The scene begins some years earlier in family home with Aron's younger sister rehearsing Nocturnes, Op.9, No. 2. After several days of being pinned by a boulder, Aron Ralston (James Franco), dehydrated, delusional, and believing he is going to die, reminisces his past to the bliss of Nocturne.
  • Fast Girls (2011) Used in the background of the party scene whilst Lenora Crichlow's character gets inappropriately drunk.
  • The Raven (2012) Alice Eve's character, Emily, plays Nocturnes Op. 9, No. 2, to an audience as her father converses with Inspector Fields.
  • Bioshock: Infinite (2013) A version of the song plays at the Finkton Docks, and a separate version plays inside the museum portion of the Columbian Archaeological Society
  • Behind the Candelabra (2013) Played in the background when Liberace (portrayed on-screen by Michael Douglas) talks about his Catholic faith.
  • Mad Men (2013) Played on violin by Sandy in the Season 6 premiere "The Doorway"
  • Japanese figure skater Mao Asada skated to this piece for her short program in the 2006-2007 season and the 2013-2014 season.
  • American Horror Story: Coven (2014) The nocturne is played at the beginning of the episode "Go to Hell (American Horror Story)".
  • How I Met Your Mother (2014) In the 5th episode of the 9th season, The Poker Game, Op. 9 No. 2 plays while Marshall describes how good a pizza is.

In popular music[edit]

Muse's "Collateral Damage" is the same as Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 in Eb, with slight modifications, a handful of changed notes, an added string section, children's laughter and jet fighters;[4] this song is used as an ending to the song "United States of Eurasia".

Nocturne in B major, Op. 9, No. 3[edit]

The opening bars of No. 3 in B major.

It is in the ternary form A-B-A. The first section is set to allegretto. The main theme is chromatic, but filled with nostalgic energy. The second contrasting section, Agitato in B minor, is a very dramatic one with a combined melody and counter-melody in the right hand and continuous 8th note arpeggios in the left, which requires an amount of virtuosity. The piece is full of coloratura ornaments, and ends with a wide chord in the left hand accompanied with right hand triplets in a high octave to lead to a legatissimo smorzando adagio (senza tempo).[further explanation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Johnston, Blair. "Nocturnes (3) for piano, Op. 9". 
  2. ^ a b "Frédéric Chopin (Soundtrack)". IMDb. Retrieved 29 February 2014. 
  3. ^ "127 Hours Original Motion Picture Soundtrack". soundtrack-movie.com. October 29, 2010. Retrieved 2011-06-06. 
  4. ^ David Raposa (August 3, 2009). "Muse - "United States of Eurasia / Collateral Damage"". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2011-07-14. 

External links[edit]