The Chopin Nocturne Op27-2 is sublimely beautiful piano music. It is similar to the Chopin Berceuse in that the melodic and dramatic narratives of the piece work themselves out over an essentially static background.
But here the comparison ends. In the Berceuse the left hand is virtually unchanging throughout while the right hand weaves its somniferous magic. In this Nocturne there is tension between a melody trying repeatedly to take flight and escape the confines of an accompaniment unwilling to allow it to do so.
What begins as a lovely, lilting and bittersweet spianato melody becomes increasingly fraught with tension as it must turn this way and that to try to evolve against accompaniment gently unwaivering in its determination. There is a climactic moment at which the two forces do battle when the melody makes a final, unsuccessful attempt to break away, and gives up. In this moment, Chopin accomplishes a dramatic effect that surpasses all the fortississimo sturm and drang of the 19th Century.
While there are many beautiful renditions here, Allow me to single out the 1961 recording by Dame Moura Lympany as being most exquisite and one of the finest performance of Chopin I have ever encountered. The Lipatti and Smeterlin performances are also favorites of mine, as is the incomparable elegance of Rubinstein in his Moscow performance of 1964.
I'd also like to draw your attention to the three recordings by Jozef Hofmann dating from 1922, 1935, and 1942, the last of which certainly belongs with the two mentioned above.
If you are an admirer of Richter, Gilels and their Russian contemporaries, please do not fail to listen to the recording by Olef Boshniakovich, a pianist whose name should be as well known. And those of you who are interested in hints of how Chopin himself might have played the piece, be sure to listen to the recording by Moriz Rosenthal, a pupil of Franz Liszt.
MARTHA ARGERICH Argentine Pianist (b 1941) Recorded live in 1972
CLAUDIO ARRAU Chilean pianist (1903-1991)
LOLA ASTANOVA Russian-American pianist (b 1985)
WILHELM BACKHAUS german pianist (1884-1969) recorded live in 1953
DANIEL BARENBOIM Argentine-born Israeli pianist (b 1942) recorded live in 2009
MAGDALENA BACZEWSKA contemporary Polish pianist followed by a lovely Mazurka
IDIL BIRET Turkish pianist (b 1941)
OLEG BOSHNIAKOVICH Russian pianist (b 1920)
John Browning Amereican pianist (1933-2003) recorded c. the early 1960s
SHURA CHERKASSKY Russian-American pianist (1909-1995) recorded in 1956
CHISATO KUSUNOKI German-born English pianist (b 1979) recorded in 2010
LI YUNDI Chinese pianist (b 1982) recorded in 2010
DINU LIPATTI Romanian Pianist (1917-1950)
NIKOLAI LUGANSKY Russian Pianist (b 1972) live performance 2004
MOURA LYMPANY British Pianist (1916-2005)
VITALIJ MARGULIS Ukrainian Pianist (b.1928)
JANNE MERTANEN contemporary Finnish pianist
IVAN MORAVEC Czech pianist (b 1930)
VLADIMIR de PACHMANN Russian-German Pianist (1848-1933) Recorded in 1916 and again in 1925
MAURIZIO POLLINI Italian Pianist (b.1942)
MORIZ ROSENTHAL Polish pianist (1862-1946) preceded by Op 9 n2
ARTUR RUBINSTEIN Polish-American pianist (1887-1982) live video from 1964
and a commercial recording
SANDRO RUSSO contemporary Italian pianist
VLADIMIR SOFRONITSKY Russian Pianist (1901-1961) 1. Nocturne in C sharp minor and 2. Nocturne in D flat major
SOLOMON CUTNER British Pianist (1902-1988) recorded in 1942
JAN SMETERLIN Polish Pianist (1892-1967) recorded in 1954
PIOTR SWITON contemporary Polish Pianist
RAYMOND TROUARD French Pianist (1916-2008) Recorded in 1953
ALEXIS WEISSENBERG Bulgarian-born French Pianist (1929-2012
This last example is by a pianist who posts wonderful recordings by the great pianists on YouTube. All I know about him is that his first name seems to be Andrei, he studied at the Moscow Conservatory, and he goes by the name of Truecrypt. If you Google him, you will find a number of people as amazed by his playing as I asking if anyone knows who he is. Whoever he is, he is a marvelous pianist of the first order.
Here is my new book, a murder mystery with a musical polemic