Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2
Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 9 Track 19
Perhaps it is the music teacher in me, but what I find most interesting in Chopin is the influence his music teachers had on him. I like to think that Adalbert Zywny
and Józef Elsner
saw Chopin's unique potential early and were empathetic enough to handle him with the appropriate amounts of sternness and openness. Chopin learned a strong respect for the music of Bach and Mozart that was balanced with a strong respect for his own music. Though Professor Elsner had his ambitions for young Chopin, he wanted Chopin to compose symphonies (the same, strange ambition Clara had for her husband), he knew to allow Chopin to follow what interested Chopin. It is to Elsner's credit that Chopin's orchestral writing is not as great as his piano music.
It is unkind that Mr. Chopin's Nocturne would follow Mr. Field's
in this anthology. Although Mr. Field's piece could have been a template for Op. 9, No. 2, as far as I am aware, Chopin arrived at this breakthrough style independent of Field's efforts. And back to back, Chopin's Nocturne makes Field's Nocturne seem hollow. Though the listener enjoyed the first piece, upon hearing the first notes of this one, the listener experiences a revelation and almost says, "Where have you been all my life?"
The secret to the high quality of Mr. Chopin's piano writing is the same discipline that informs the music of Robert Schumann. And that is a constant awareness of voice leading in spite of the freedom allowed by the keyboard. It is an instinct learned from J.S. Bach.