Many adult students get bent out of shape when a piece of “night music” blooms with “improvised,” decorative passagework at peak expressive levels. Add in prolonged trills with lower notes tied (held down) leading to a decisive crescendo through a tricky chromatic scale, and many players will shrink from the challenge. They’ll prefer to skip over what appears to be never-ending land mines.
I’m very sympathetic, because I’ve been in the thick of Chopin’s impassioned outpourings trapped by a frenzy that inevitably interrupts a smooth journey to full blown expression. As remedy, I’ve learned how to stay centered, relaxed, and in touch with my breath as my primary musical underpinning while I try to create an effortless “improvisation” that intensifies without a struggle.
This is why I selected Chopin’s Nocturne in E minor, Op. 72, No. 1 as my point of departure in the Keeping Your Cool universe of playing.
Measures 31 to 38 meander in improvised fashion to a resonating chromatic ascent to B minor. And while there are many Forte level measures in this section, one NEVER stays at a fixed dynamic given the ebb and flow of harmonic rhythm. The player has to poetically shape the ornaments, trills, and fancy filigreed passages with an understanding of harmonic dissonances and resolutions, and how various melodic meanderings invite nuanced, dips in phrases.
In particular, one of my pertinent epiphanies surrounds the lengthy trill spanning measures 36 and 37 in the E minor Nocturne. The first part of the trill is a suspension (Harmonic 2nd) that relaxes into a Harmonic third, even as the repercussions spill into a heightened chromatic ascent. By “relaxing” into the trill as it has resolved into a minor third, the player can take a new breath to impede CHOKING into the decisive B minor CADENCE.