Nokturnal No. 1

ensemble solo piano
duration ~4:49
score PDF, 160KB
performance history 05/02/1994 (undergraduate senior recital) by Garth L. Koren
date completed 1992


This is the first piano piece I wrote. It’s essentially two themes sewn together in alternation. As the piece progresses, the more sinister theme encroaches on the serene one, first changing it to minor, then chasing and interrupting its attempted returns to the original, major key.

In the first version, I instructed the pianist to hold the sustain pedal down and slam the keyboard lid. When you’re sitting at the piano (and in a concert hall), it’s a wonderful sound – the reverberation of the impact is amplified and expanded by the piano’s soundboard, washing over everything you heard leading up to it. But without that same physical proximity (so, for example, from the seats in that same concert hall), it’s just a jarring sound with no purpose. So, many years later, I removed that needless effect and let the contrast between the percussive chords and the delicate extremeties that follow them speak for themselves, without the performance art interjection. Maybe it’s better that way.

I titled it “Nokturnal” because the majority of that piece was written at night, and intended to suggest night time, much like a nocturne. The leading-tone heavy themes reminded me of eastern european melodies, so I altered the spelling to (apparently) be more Polish. I don’t know if that was a conscious thing, but I was learning Chopin pieces in those days, so it probably bled over from my practice book.

My intention was to write a series of solo piano pieces, all nocturnes, but every attempt has turned into another piece (most recently, it was true for “in repose”).