The opening of the C minor Nocturne immediately announces something out of the ordinary, with its pendulum-like bass and its melody which, punctuated by rests, is strongly rhetorical. Chopin was, according to his students, impossible to please when playing the opening phrase. Already in the first four bars he wanted to hear a question and an answer. The following section in C major, marked poco più lento and sotto voce, holds back the drama and keeps us in suspense. Gradually things build up with the help of octaves interjected like the rumbling of thunder in the background. When it all comes to a head, the main theme is presented again, but this time with great agitation and over a chordal, triplet accompaniment. Its passionate outburst is maintained almost to the very end, with only the last two bars fading away, but not dispelling the sense of tragedy.
from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2004