Our music for this week is the Nocturne in F Major for solo piano by Tchaikovsky.
This composition is part of a set of two pieces that Tchaikovsky wrote while on vacation in Nice, France in 1872. The other piece is a Humoresque that has since been transcribed for violin and cello, among other instruments.
It would be difficult to find a more charming piece of music than this Nocturne. Sensual melodic lines in the right hand flow seamlessly over tumbling waters in the left hand, creating an atmosphere of delicacy and relaxation. Unlike much of Tchaikovsky’s music, there is no “moment of tension” in this piece that must be resolved; it is content to simply enjoy the ride. For an example of this, listen for the way that Tchaikovsky brings the melody back at around 2:20. Rather than create harmonic tension by entering the world of dissonance or dynamic pressure, he simply lets the development section drop off by itself. I think this creates a wonderful effect, since it enables the original melody to appear out of a moment of complete silence.
P.S. Some of you may remember our recent series on the great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter. I would encourage you to check out his recording of this piece, which also includes its Humoresque companion.