About this work
This is a late work in Chopin's oeuvre, coming at a time when the composer's output was in decline along with state of his health. He had spent the summer of 1843, when most of this work was written, in Nohant, at the residence of his lover, novelist Aurore Dupin Dudevant, better known by her pseudonym, George Sand. Some have suggested that the inspiration for this Berceuse or lullaby was the young daughter of singer Pauline Viardot, who had left the child in the care of Sand during that summer. Ultimately this assertion must be considered conjecture, but the character of the music would hardly seem at odds with it.
Chopin's expressive language here is uncomplicated and the music quite straightforward. Moreover, there is something childlike in the simplicity and playful innocence of the main theme. Yet, the composer invests more in the work's mood and character than one might realize. The main theme sounds dreamy and innocent at the outset, but as it unfolds atop one of Chopin's ostinato basses it gradually takes on subtle changes, becomes more sophisticated -- perhaps more adult -- as it sprouts new ideas and gathers ornamentation. Still, it never loses its innocent demeanor, even if there is a feeling the piece is gradually fading or decaying. When the end is reached, the mood has turned wistful, even somewhat disconsolate. A typical performance of the Berceuse lasts from four to five minutes.
Curated by Minna Ylikauma, Head of Catalogue