We have to give credit to movie-makers for putting this hauntingly beautiful composition on the popular marquee of Classical music favorites. It shares notoriety with Mozart’s middle movement theme of Concerto no. 21 in C, which recurred throughout the film, Elvira Madigan.
Chopin’s Nocturne in C# minor was a perfect match for Roman Polanski’s THE PIANIST, because it tore at our heartstrings as a wartime musical backdrop. In the opener, Hitler’s troops are invading Poland, ripping the Jewish protagonist concert pianist from his beloved. (the 88s, of course) And being that Chopin was a patriotic Pole, the composer’s music in its somber dimension draws out the poignancy of struggle and hardship during Nazi tyranny.
The Pianist (2002 film)
“The Pianist is a 2002 historical drama film directed by Roman Polanski, scripted by Ronald Harwood and starring Adrien Brody. It is based on the autobiographical book The Pianist, a World War II memoir by the Polish-Jewish pianist and composer Władysław Szpilman. The film is a co-production between Poland, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
“The Pianist met with significant critical praise and received multiple awards and nominations. The film was awarded the Palme d’Or at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. At the 75th Academy Awards, The Pianist won Oscars for Best Director (Polanski), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ronald Harwood) and Best Actor (Brody), and was also nominated for four other awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. It also won the BAFTA Award for Best Film and BAFTA Award for Best Direction in 2003 and seven French Césars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for Brody.”
I recall one of my teenage transfer students entering my musical sanctuary, bearing a shoddy edition of the Nocturne that was already crinkled from repeated sight-reads. At best, her fingering was a guessing-in-the-dark escapade that needed some taming and attentive practice, but she was extremely motivated to learn the work more thoroughly based on her exposure to the film.
Naturally, when a pupil is enthusiastic about studying a piece, the momentum often supports daily, consistent practicing.
In my case, it’s been years since I explored the Nocturne side-by-side with my teen pupil, so having recently decided to revisit the composition, I embraced a slow, behind tempo approach that’s always recommended.
With this introduction, I’ve embedded a video that is perhaps a primer for those who want to absorb this masterpiece in a step-by-step manner.