Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chopin's Nocturnes in the Spring (Vol. 5, No. 3)

Let us start from a spring poem from the Chopin with Cherries anthology. And a nocturne, of course, a lace of sounds woven by the fingers of Artur Rubinstein. 

Nocturnes in Spring

by Leonore Wilson

In spring you played nocturnes,
Morning glories burst upon the vine.
There was always a certain melancholy
About you, Mother, the way you combed your hair,
Dark and wet back upon your face,
Pulling out the grey strands
One by one, gently letting them go
In the breeze, watching the wild canaries
Scatter after they divvied them up.
You noticed the cold air
In the morning tulips, the dew
On the oleander and wild rose,
The smell of jasmine and mint,
The budding sound of a chrysalis.
In playing nocturnes, you gathered
The smallest things. You taught me
To hear the rain feeding leaves,
The dance of a hummingbird’s wings,
The difference between a pigeon
And a dove, their cooing
Not singing. A cloud’s formation
Changing, a quail’s echo
Rising and falling:
The want, the need,
The gentle music of your love.

There is a peculiar charm to music experienced in the dark, with eyes closed, lights turned off. Ignacy Jan Paderewski kept the lights in his concert halls very low, emerging into semi-darkness of the stage, the sole focus of his enraptured audience. He took them on magic trajectories across sonorous landscapes.

Why does darkness enhance the listening experience? The mind, freed from visual distractions, can better focus on the aural experiences, the interplay of expectation/anticipation and resolution that is the essence of music, according to David Huron and other experts. "The Brain on Music" is a title of one popular study of the positive impact of listening to and making music, especially singing, on the well-being of the brain and the whole person.  Music does make you happy. Beautiful music makes you even happier.

Here are, then, some more Chopin's Nocturnes for the spring:

Ignacy Jan Paderewski plays Nocturne Op. 15, No. 1 (1911)

Claudio Arrau plays Nocturne No. 21, Op. posthumous.

Brigitte Engerer plays ALL Chopin Nocturnes for an hour and a half! No advertising either, a miracle of sorts!

And here is another, perhaps better known, poetic Nocturne:


by W.H. Auden

Now through night's caressing grip
Earth and all her ocans slip,
Capes of China slide away
From her fingers into day
And th'Americas incline
Coasts towards her shadow line.

Now the ragged vagrants creep
Into crooked holes to sleep:
Just and unjust, worst and best,
Change their places as they rest:
Awkward lovers like in fields
Where disdainful beauty yields:

While the splendid and the proud
Naked stand before the crowd
And the losing gambler gains
And the beggar entertains:
May sleep's healing power extend
Through these hours to our friend.
Unpursued by hostile force,
Traction engine, bull or horse
Or revolting succubus;
Calmly till the morning break
Let him lie, then gently wake.

Let us end with another Nocturne, this one by Ignacy Jan Paderewski, exquisitely played by Kevin Kenner:

Kevin Kenner plays Nocturne Op. 16, No. 4 by Paderewski.


LEONORE WILSON teaches English literature at a private university in San Francisco. Her work has been in such magazines as Quarterly West, Madison Review, Third Coast, Pif, Magma, etc

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