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27 October 2018

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MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 8 - C1

Nocturne in G minor - Op 37 No. 1
Fryderyk Chopin
Grade 8 Piano - ABRSM 2019/2020 C1.

This Nocturne in G minor is one of the most melodic of Chopin's hugely popular works. As such, despite the piano  marking at the beginning, the RH tune needs a deep cantabile which sings out above the LH chords. Also worthy of note is the tempo marking of Lento. In the ABRSM edition there is a metronome mark of crotchet = c.69, but this should be taken with a pinch of salt as a stylish performance of this beautiful piece will have so much rubato it makes a strict beat meaningless. Also, the middle section will need an increase in tempo. Chopin himself, marks this section Andante sostenuto, in an early manuscript. (Somewhat surprising, that this was not reproduced on the ABRSM copy.

In the ABRSM edition, you will notice that there is some pedalling marked. This however, is not the only place you will need to pedal. On the contrary, most of the time, pedalling should be done throughout the piece, with every change of harmony, which is usually every crotchet beat. The marked pedalling, is only in cases where it is used over more than one beat, indicating that a bass note still needs to be heard under the next beat.

A word on ornaments. Much of the melody is very embellished with groups of grace notes. According to Chopin's own teaching notes, these should start on the beat, that is, synchronised with the LH bass notes. Pay attention also to the arpeggiated chords in the middle section. In bar 44 of the ABRSM edition, this ornament is written out, so that the arpeggio figure spreads out onto the grace note, not the melody note, the latter being played just after the beat. The same style needs to be used on all the following arpeggiated chords in this middle section.

Staying with the middle section, pay attention to the tied notes. Very often, they link two phrases together. Generally, this section is sostenuto anyway, but at the ends of phrases a slight breath should be made. Indeed, some of these phrases have a comma at the end (e.g. between bars 44 and 45), a slight wait on the silence between the phrases. However, the tied bass note here needs to ring on through the "silence". The same is true for the slur between bars 57 and 58. Again, generally the sostenuto  feel of this section, will require that you pedal right up to the next chord in most cases, with the exception of the phrase endings. Play the video performance again and see if you can hear the slur between the E flat (bar 57) and the A flat (bar 58), when the pedalling breaks for a slight breath between phrases.

Finally, pay particular attention to Chopin's phrase marks. Phrases are often reinforced by the dynamic shaping written on the score. For example, the end of bar 4, completes a phrase and bar 5 is a new phrase. It would be tempting here, to slur off the last note of bar 4 onto the first note of bar 5. But Chopin has written it differently and accentuated the, new phrase, with a subito forte.

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