Barber Nocturne Op. 33 - Has anyone played this piece

Posted by: JessicaB

Barber Nocturne Op. 33 - Has anyone played this piece - 06/24/13 12:16 AM

I just heard a recording of it, and it is absolutely beautiful. I am wondering what the biggest challenges in playing it are. Are there any particular editions that you can recommend?
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Barber Nocturne Op. 33 - Has anyone played this piece - 06/24/13 02:02 AM

I believe that Schirmer holds the copyright for Barber's music; that's the edition I have of the work, and I don't know of any other that is available.

I haven't studied the piece, but I don't see any great difficulties just reading through it. There are lots of accidentals throughout, giving it quite a chromatic sound, so just getting the notes requires more attention than it does for works of the Romantic and Classical periods; in other words, it not an easy sight-reading exercise because of the unexpected accidentals and key changes.

The cadenza needs, perhaps, a little bit of work to get it into the fingers.

Perhaps the greatest difficulty is an interpretive one; this Nocturne requires special attention on the part of the performer to portray a sense of forward movement and structure. In some hands, it might risk sounding just a little static and no more than a series of notes - but perhaps that can be said of almost any work not interpreted well.

Regards,
Posted by: Gerard12

Re: Barber Nocturne Op. 33 - Has anyone played this piece - 06/24/13 11:09 PM

JessicaB, I hope that the recording you heard was the one by John Browning: It's exquisite!

I'm glad that you're interested in this piece. I haven't heard it performed in a while - maybe 10 years, or so.

I studied the piece as a grad student. Looking back, I probably played it like a junior high school student(!): A bit too heavy handed, perhaps; lacking the sense of delicacy for the pianissimo passages - and making too much of the 3 or 4 RH phrases that are pronounced with quarter and duple 8th notes.

The dynamic scheme means a lot, IMO. Please note that there are a couple of sections where the LH is marked p, as the RH is marked mF or F. You might want to get a grasp of the dynamic scheme as it is laid out through the entire piece - even before you start to think about characterizing and shaping the various phrases.

The word Nocturne conjures up the music of Chopin, of course. But in this piece I hear a lot of Liszt (and some Rachmaninoff, too). The "Homage" in the title is probably more like a "tip of the hat" to John Field.

Enjoy the work on it!
Posted by: IanW

Re: Barber Nocturne Op. 33 - Has anyone played this piece - 06/24/13 11:54 PM

The Piano Syllabus app (on Google Play here http://bit.ly/12cwFpj) shows the AMEB including this piece in its Licentiate progam (its highest level) while the RCM includes it in the Associate Diploma syllabus (2nd highest level). Both show the Schirmer edition. There's also a YouTube link as follows: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJ3CEOrjxow&feature=youtube_gdata_player
Posted by: Tim Adrianson

Re: Barber Nocturne Op. 33 - Has anyone played this piece - 06/25/13 08:49 AM

One comment that I will make -- in much of Barber's music, the sense of song, and more specifically the gestures of an operatic aria for soprano, is vitally important. Like his late Ballade, I believe the Nocturne needs to sound like an operatic aria; and, in fact, that brings it close to several Nocturnes of Frederic Chopin, who also was enamored with bel canto opera (This, in spite of the fact that Barber dedicated his piece to John Field, the "inventor" of the Nocturne). Compare Barber's piece to Chopin's 27-1, which for me has a strong suggestion of an operatic scene. In broad terms, that is how I would approach this Nocturne, making sure NOT to get lost in all the exquisite chromatic filigree that abounds, particularly in the dramatic middle section.