Goblins, Moonlight, and Romance: The Many Moods of Night Music

Oct 27, 2017

As Halloween approaches, what better time to consider classical music composed for, and about, the night? WRTI’s Susan Lewis sat down with pianist Jeffrey Siegel for insights into the nocturne and other music of the night.

Radio script:

[Music: Chopin, Nocturne]

Susan Lewis: The short dreamy piano pieces were called nocturnes because they were played at night.  And although Chopin became a master at them,  the "father" of the nocturne was the older Irish composer John Field. Pianist Jeffrey Siegel.

[Music: Field, Nocturne]

Jeffrey Siegel: Chopin knew Field’s nocturnes; he actually heard Fields play, and Chopin was inspired by it and came up with his own.

Beyond the nocturne, some classical composers have tackled the darkness head on.

SL: Chopin’s nocturnes explored the different moods that night can bring.

[Music: Chopin, Nocturne]

JS: You only need to hear a few seconds of this nocturne to know you’re in a very different ‘night’ mood.

SL: Beyond the nocturne, some classical composers have tackled the darkness head on, as in Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre.

[Music: Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre]

SL: And there are so many more musical images of the night, from Mendelssohn’s scherzo in A Midsummer Night’s Dream...

[Music: Mendelssohn, A Midsummer Night’s Dream]

SL: ...to Debussy’s reflection on the light of the moon.

[Music: Debussy, Claire de Lune]

JS: In just a few seconds with some floating tones, he creates this incredible atmosphere that all is well in the world, that we are at rest, we are contemplating the beauties of nature as dusk turns into night.

SL: Tapping into our fears, comforting us, or lulling us to sleep, classical night music has as many moods as the night itself.

Pianist Jeffrey Siegel performs his Keyboard Conversation Music of the Night: The Miraculous and the Macabre, on Monday, October 30th at the Kimmel Center.