nocturne no 3 in Ab
Here, I hear the beginnings of what we now know as the Nocturne. A lovely melody, a gentle bass line, and a steady, murmuring central accompaniment, this one based on a chromatic turn. The harmonies aren’t strongly pulling one way or the other, they just go where they go. A short episode into dominant brings a bit of tension, some rhythmic instability, and chromaticism before it transitions back into the first section, this time with the turn in triplets instead of duples. A short coda finishes the piece.
nocturne no 5 in Bb
This has one more element that we know as nocturnal: embellishment. The harmonies are still functional, meandering as they will, and the melody still singing, but when it returns, filigrees light it up. What I find most interesting about this Nocturne are the harmonies. Each time the melody comes back, the harmony heads it off in a different direction, changing color and creating new lines.
nocturne no 8 in A
At first I thought this was more of a character piece than a “nocturne.” The more I thought about it, I realized it was because the melody is in short, square phrases, and the rolling accompaniment we know and love doesn’t appear until pretty far into the piece. Once I got used to it, however, it made sense. The character, the ornaments, the harmonies, it was all there. I was just thrown off by the opening texture.
nocturne op 9 no 3 in B
Ah, the rolling bass. Right from the start are embellishments on the original melody. The harmonies almost immediately take us into new territory, and the melody soars along with it. Here we have a true middle section: stormy, less lyrical, with much more directional harmonies. A true contrast to the main section. The lyricism returns, and a high, fluttering, cadenza-like figure brings the nocturne to rest.
nocturne op 27 no 1 in c#
Opening with undulating open fifths in the bass, we have no idea where it’s going. And not soon after the melody enters, we are taken everywhere but tonic. This is an incredibly mournful piece. Every time a phrase attempts to climb, it falls back, often with a Neapolitan underscoring the painfulness. If it does happen to climb, the bass falls. The middle section is a defiant, triumphant exclamation against the sorrow – rising phrases, repeated notes, but eventually is overtaken by the falling bass and is defeated. And although it ends in major, it is not a triumphant major, but a resignation and acceptance.
nocturne op 62 no 1 in B
The harmonies in this are just incredible. Never staying in one place for too long. Sometimes I was unable to tell where I was, key-wise, it was moving/modulating so quickly. Always shifting color. The middle section introduced a different kind of instability: syncopation. The left hand keeps everything moving forward, while the right hand continues to sing. The trills, in the return of the A section, add an air of delicacy approaching the ethereal, and eventually floats into nothing.
nocturne op 62 no 2 in E
The melody here is incredibly long! The mood seems more grounded than the previous ones, more external-singing than internal-singing. Again in the extremely passionate middle section, syncopations keep things moving forward. Just when it appears to be winding down, it begins anew, going until it runs out of breath, and eventually returning to the original theme, this time almost pulled off track by new harmonies. It ends with two short, simple falling phrases in E major.