About this work
Published in 1883 along with Nocturnes No. 1 and No. 2, which respectively date to 1875 and 1881, this A flat major effort is the shortest of the three, but in some ways is the loveliest. Like its earlier siblings, it employs the tripartite form used by Fauré in the first two, which follows the Chopin model. This piece allows more sun into its sound world than what most listeners would expect in a nocturne. Yet for all its loveliness, it is not brimming with happy music, either, coming across more as romantic and sweetly reflective. One can, of course, hear it as program music about love, past or present, but there is more serenity than passion here, more tranquility than fire. The main theme is more than vaguely Chopin-esque in its warmth and fluid beauty, the music always seeming on the verge of blossoming into some lovely outpouring of emotion. The middle section features a slightly darker variant on the main theme and works up a greater sense of tension -- tension that gradually melts away. The main theme returns somewhat altered, after which follows a subdued coda to close out this lovely piece. Typical performances of this Nocturne have a duration of about five minutes.