Thursday, August 4, 2011

From that Restaurant Last Night . . .Chopin Nocturnes Volume 1 Drifts Away.

The Good: Relaxing, Some pieces have clearly difficult fingerings
The Bad: Nothing Memorable, Nothing striking, Nothing terribly evocative
The Basics: Nothing terrible or terrific, simply unmemorable and unevocative, which I require to recommend a classical piece.

For those who haven't read many of my reviews, I've been getting into classical music more and more lately and I find I'm enjoying that quite a bit. There have been one or two classical albums I've reviewed that haven't grabbed me, but for the most part, the experience has been enlightening; I've been learning much about the origins of music and appreciating music as a whole more. To me, great classical music evokes images, inspires the imagination and - in short - stirs something up inside you.

Thus, Chopin's first disappointment to me are his nocturnes. This collection has twelve Chopin nocturnes and I went into it blind. I've loved Chopin's polonaises and marches, his nocturnes were largely unknown to me. Out of twelve tracks, not a single one evoked an image, an emotion, nada. Gone are the rousing chords, the melancholy beats, the triumphant keystrokes. In its place is light, airy music.

Chopin's nocturnes are all piano music and if you're new to Chopin, he was a pianist, so that his Nocturnes are all on the piano is no real surprise. But usually, Chopin uses the piano to push both the borders of music and human playing. That is, most of Chopin's music moves in such a way that it is impressive that a human could do the complex fingerings or keep up the heavy sounds. Chopin's music is usually a fast finger exercise or an endurance trial that involves using the fingers for long periods of time.

These nocturnes, however, are neither. The tracks are not long, the average length is only four and a half minutes. The pieces do not utilize many chords, instead relying on simple notes, derived by mostly slow fingerings. So, listening to the nocturnes, there's no hook; there's nothing that impresses the listener with the sound. As a result, the impression that lingers is that the music is overly simple; indeed, many pianists play Chopin nocturnes that are on this album as children.

Chopin's nocturnes were the elevator music of his time. These pieces are light fingered, only occasionally quicker, but always softer music than his standard songs. There is an absence of a catchy tune. I've listened to this album sixteen times now and not a single tune has stuck with me. What that means is there are no memorable melodies on this album. There are no memorable titles, with names like "F Major, Op. 15, No. 1" and "A flat major, Op. 32, No. 2." Chopin is better known for items like "The Funeral March." There's nothing so moody, nothing so emotive here. Instead, this is an album that sounds like musings of someone sitting at a piano without any real direction or thought.

More than that, there's the feeling that the artist had nothing special to say here. They are unremarkable pieces and a disappointment to those who like classical music.

I wish I had more to say about this album, but the truth is, there's not. The music isn't terribly sophisticated, it's not evocative, there are no lyrics to comment on, it's one person, one piano and here Chopin simply isn't doing it for me. That's a shame because he made my favorite classical piece of all time.

All I can say is this album is ideal music for on a dinner date. It's soft, it bodes well for conversing over, it creates a light mood and I suppose it could be danced to if you wanted to. Otherwise, move on to better classical or classical sounding fare! There's a Chopin's Greatest Hits album that I reviewed (here!) that I would recommend a thousand times more than this uninspired one.

For other Classical music reviews, please check out my takes on:
Karajan Gold Tchaikovski
Pictures At An Exhibition and Night On Bald Mountain - Mussogrsky
The Red Violin Soundtrack


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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