Chopin – Nocturne Op. 55 No. 1
The duo of solo piano nocturnes, Op. 55, are among the musical creations of the renowned Frédéric Chopin. As the fifteenth and sixteenth entries into this category, they were born out of Chopin’s artistic endeavors during 1842-1844, and saw their public unveiling in August 1844.
His protégé and enthusiast, Mademoiselle Jane Stirling, was honored with their dedication. The haunting melody of the Nocturne in F minor can be found within the fabric of the 1997 cinematic work, The Peacemaker (with George Clooney and Nicole Kidman in lead roles). The primary antagonist (portrayed by Marcel Iureş as Dusan Gavrich), a music mentor by profession, instructs a young learner on comprehending and expressing the subtleties of the composition, followed by a demonstration on the piano.
The piece gradually evolves from a single piano rendition to a symphonic ensemble. The track “For the Damaged Coda” by Blonde Redhead finds its roots in the F minor nocturne, and has been integrated into the animated series Rick and Morty. The promotional trailer for The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is infused with the melodies of Nocturnes, Op. 55. #witcher2 The final mission in Cyberpunk 2077, bearing the title Nocturne Op 55 No 1, commences with a performance by Hanako Arasaka.
With an extraordinary push against her shyness, Elizavieta Cheriemietieft sought Chopin’s tutelage as a replacement for Marie de Krudner, who was departing Paris. From December 16, 1842, to January 20, 1843, she was under his instruction for twelve sessions (initially two, later three hours each week) in the afternoon at his residence. As with Krudner’s lessons, these concluded with Chopin gracing the piano with his Mazurkas, Nocturnes, and other compositions:
‘Chopin’s interpretation of his Valse mélancolique [op. 34/2? 69/2? 70/231], and his études are celestial, ethereal: his music evokes images of heavenly beings’ (Journal, November 17, 1842). Besides practicing pieces by Clementi and various exercises, Cheriemietieft worked on a Beethoven sonata, and Chopin’s Waltzes, Nocturnes, and Preludes. On the date marked December 8, 1842, Chopin inscribed the first sixteen measures of the upcoming Nocturne op. 55/I, here presented in F# minor and labeled Andante, into the young girl’s music book.
This autograph now resides in the Central Archives for Literature and Art in Moscow, alongside Anna and Elizavieta’s journals and some family letters. Extracts from these documents (originally in French) are available in Russian in Niesmievanova-Siemienovski and Siemienovski. The snippets from Elizavieta’s Journal used here have been sourced from the yet unpublished original. From 1842 onward, the shadow of grave illness began to fall on Chopin.
Following a solo concert in Paris on February 21, 1842, he conveyed to Grzymała: “I’m confined to my bed all day, my mouth and tonsils are causing great discomfort.”His ill health compelled him to decline Alkan’s formal invitation to be a part of the re-performance of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony at Érard’s on March 1, 1843. Late in 1844, when Charles Hallé paid a visit to Chopin, he found him in a state of extreme discomfort, “barely able to stir, bent over like a semi-folded pocket knife, clearly in severe pain”, although the sight of the piano revived his spirits.
Chopin’s physical condition steadily worsened from this point. Contemporary studies indicate that in addition to his other health issues, he might have been afflicted by temporal lobe epilepsy. Over this period, Chopin’s musical production began to recede, with fewer compositions each year.