Zoom into a Musical Manuscript

Look closely into the details of Fryderyk Chopin's manuscript, listen to the fragments of the sketched music and follow the development of the composer's musical thoughts.

By The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Paweł Siechowicz (Chopin Institute)

Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Sketching a lullaby

You are looking at the sketch for Chopin's Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57. The title suggests that it is a lullaby. Chopin's music often assumes a dreamlike mood resembling the imaginary journeys of an unquiet mind preparing to fall asleep. Berceuse encourages such listening. 

A numbered catalogue of variants

When Chopin was working on Berceuse he was using a different name for it. He was thinking about it as 'The Variants'. In this sketch Chopin collects his ideas for the variants of a single melody and enumerates them in two columns. 

Decorative scribble

On the bottom right side of the page you can notice the effects of the composer's struggle with his pen. Although it might have been the cause of composer's frustration, now we approach it as a kind of decorative pattern adding a unique character to the manuscript.

Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Work in progress

Some of the ideas were carefully crossed out. Chopin scribbled the unwanted fragments out meticulously so that nobody could see the things that he did not want to show.  

What is missing?

The notes played by the left hand of the pianist are notated on the lower staff. Since the left hand is constantly repeating a short phrase, Chopin wrote down only those places that contain some changes to the repeated pattern. 

Berceuse, Op. 57, m. 1-2
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The repeated pattern

Before listening to the melodic variants, let's lend an ear to the phrase that forms a stable point of reference for the melodic exuberance of this subtle masterpiece. 

Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Let's browse through the catalouge of Chopin's melodic inventiveness.

Berceuse, Op. 57, m. 3-6
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Variant 1

The first variant of the melody is a reference point for those which follow. 

Berceuse, Op. 57, m. 24-27
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Variant 6

This time the melody falls gently like a feather and rises effortlessly in a quick passage. 

Berceuse, Op. 57, m. 28-31
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Variant 7

Interspersed with short pauses, the melody resembles raindrops falling onto a surface of water. 

Berceuse, Op. 57, m. 40-43
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Variant 10

This time the melody assumes a shimmery condition of a light playing on the water. 

Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Berceuse, Op. 57, m. 48-55
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Variants 12 and 13

Notice the change of the order implemented by the composer. The variant notated lower is heard before the one notated above it. 

Berceuse, Op. 57, m. 69-71
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Closing chords

The music ends with two chords that form a peaceful ending for this ingenious lullaby. 

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