This is the first of Chopin’s Nocturnes, written when he was only about twenty. My love is not specifically for this piece but for all twenty-one Nocturnes, but that’s hours of music and you have to start somewhere. No more beautiful music for piano has ever been written.
Eleven years ago I wrote a big long blog piece on the Nocturnes, with pictures and lots of exposition; if you want to find out more, it’s a good place to start and I’m not going to reiterate. However, I did learn a couple of things when I popped up the Wikipedia article on this piece. First, it was dedicated to Mme Camille Pleyel, a pianist who was Chopin’s contemporary and apparently quite a colorful person. Also, #2 in the series of Nocturnes is “regarded as Chopin’s most famous piece”. Sorry, I’m sticking with No. 1. Because it sounds like an invitation. The right thing to do is sit down late at night with an adult beverage and listen to all the Nocturnes end-to-end.
In 2018, I stand by my 2007 recommendation for Arrau’s 1997 recording of the Nocturnes. Which may be unfair; loads of superb pianists have recorded it, nobody could possibly have listened to all of them carefully, and quite likely some will please some sets of ears more than Arrau does mine.
Links · Spotify playlist. This tune on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify. I can’t find live video of Arrau doing this, but there is no shortage. Here’s a nice relaxed take by Yundi Li. Shut your eyes and lean back; it’s not very long.