Frédéric Chopin: Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 55, No. 2

Written for the Tippet Rise Art CenterNot to be reprinted without permission.

This rapturous nocturne is the second of two Chopin published in 1844. It is a bit unusual in that it begins forte, loud for a night piece, only becoming more hushed on the second page. It is also unusual for its nearly continuous melody, without any contrasting sections. Delphine de Giradin, a writer and member of Chopin’s circle, called it “the dangerous one… the fatal nocturne.”

Chopin dedicated the piece to Jane Stirling, a Scottish woman to whom he taught piano and who doted on him in Paris. Four years later, after his relationship with the novelist George Sand dissolved, friends speculated that he and Mademoiselle Stirling might finally marry. But Chopin was uninterested and, aware of his failing health, commented, “she might as well marry death.”

Benjamin Pesetsky is a composer and writer. He serves on the staff of the San Francisco Symphony and also contributes program notes for the Philadelphia Orchestra and Melbourne Symphony.