Review: 22 Nocturnes for Chopin

Given that if I was really honest, quite a bit of the stuff I’m sent for review is, at worst, pretty awful, mediocre at best, it makes it even more of a privilege to review something where I sit down to play through the music, and just go ”wow”! 22 Nocturnes for Chopin most definitely falls into this category, and if you read no further in this review, do go any buy a copy!

In recent years, EVC Music have been giving voice to a range of composers whose music has perhaps been overlooked, and 22 Nocturnes for Chopin is no exception. The book is the culmination of a call for scores in which women composers were invited to submit original nocturnes in homage to Chopin. Just as with those of the great master himself, these nocturnes are hugely diverse in their style and character.

Review: 22 Nocturnes for Chopin

The call for scores was initiated by pianist, Rose McLachlan, and the call for scores invited submissions from composers aged 14 and above from around the world. Amazingly, EVC Music received over 80 submissions, and a committee selected 16 from the anonymous scores to sit alongside six nocturnes commissioned from established composers. I think this paragraph sums up the philosophy behind the book:

‘Each composer in this collection speaks in her own authentic voice. Her music stirs emotions and reveals her cultural influences. Almost every Chopin piano work has a dedication to a woman, and this anthology of piano pieces written by women composers will complete the circle.’

Nocturne by Zoe Rahman

So, where do we start? I often feel that if I single out individual pieces, the implication is the rest are somehow inferior. This certainly isn’t the case here: there are no poor relations! If I had to choose a favourite, then it would be the last piece in the book, Zoe Rahman’s ‘Nocturne’ in the key of F major. It has a beautiful ebb and flow to it, with subtle contemporary and jazz touches which somehow draw you into the almost hypnotic movement of the music. I’m going to give a mention too to Alanna Crouch’s ‘Nocturne’, not just because it’s in my favourite key of D flat major, but because it has a richness and sonority so often lacking in contemporary piano music. Crouch makes full use of the range of the piano with beautiful deep, rich chords.

Nocturne by Nancy Litten

There are some humours interpretations of a nocturne too, particularly that by Nancy Litten, subtitled ‘Fred and Bertie’s Night-Time Stroll, with thoughts of Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 55 No. 1’. Whilst there are some traditional nocturnes very much echoing Chopin’s most famous (and of course, there’s nothing wrong in that), it was lovely to see composers really explore what a nocturne could be in the 21st century.

The book is aimed at pianists of intermediate level and upwards. Some of the nocturnes are more than playable by Grade 5, possibly even Grade 4 pianists, but to really draw the sonorities and textures out of each work, they will perhaps suit pianists of Grade 6 and above.

Review: 22 Nocturnes for Chopin

EVC Music has been leading the way in recent years, and unlike some of the major publishing houses, has been willing to take risks. Whether 22 Nocturnes for Chopin was a risk or not, it certainly paid off. The book offers a really exciting selection of pieces, hugely different in their style and approach, yet united in their appreciation of Chopin’s original Nocturnes. If it isn’t already, I’m sure that in the future, 22 Nocturnes for Chopin will be seen as a landmark publication of our generation, and rightly so. Plus, at just £14.00, it is exceptional value for money. In a saturated market, exciting new ideas such as this should be applauded. It is these quality and innovative publications which will stand the test of time.

[This post contains affiliate links]

22 Nocturnes for Chopin by Women Composers is published by EVC Music, ISBN 9781911359524, RRP £14.00.

I was sent a review copy of this book free of charge; however, this review is my honest opinion as a teacher. You can find my Reviews Policy here.

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