The Nocturnes of Frederic Chopin will always be like oatmeal on a cold morning for me. There is nothing quite as comforting, as universally warming, as a piercing and melancholy melody supported by the simplest of tasteful chords; the utmost intimacy, they express feelings we’ve all felt but can’t quite express verbally.
I say oatmeal on a cold morning, but also, a croissant at a dark café on a rainy day in winter. These pieces are Paris to me – I’m not sure why, it could be some subconscious memory of listening to them during one of my stays (and it happened to be raining every time), or it could be what they represent. Unabashed passion, but bundled into something of the utmost taste and beautiful aesthetic. That is the root of Francophilia as we know it, I think. Maybe that’s what I love about these pieces the most – their obvious focus on plain and simple beauty, with virtuosity, craft, and innovation all coming in second. The classical world lacks such beauty without flamboyancy; such pieces as these are refreshing, cleansing, honest.
I’ve included my favorite, C minor – I have hoards of associations with this piece, but let’s just say that if I were a piece of music, I would be this. I have plans to tattoo it all over my body. More on that later. There is one measure - the one immediately before the slow B section begins - that I believe to be the most divine moment in most piano music, solely because of the exposed and simple melody, basic chord progression. I've always said that if a composer can make something so basic delicious and heartwrenching, he has succeeded as an artist. Mozart and Chopin, among few others, are winners in this respect.
Enjoy this piece, and look up the rest. They sound as short vignettes of a sad but beautiful life, which is the true artist’s destiny.
My preferred pianist for this piece, at the moment, is Alexis Weissenberg; didn't find him playing on youtube, but certainly look up the album if you have time. He plays with a raw gruffness with which purists might take issue, but for my taste, it's just right.
What would I eat with this? Definitely chocolate. No recipe, because the simplicity of this piece can only be savored with something equally simple - a bar of 70% cacao Scharffen Berger chocolate. Go forth. Enjoy.