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Chopin: Nocturne 20

Posted on August 8, 2020 at 2:04 PM Comments comments (421)
Nocturne No. 20 in C-sharp Minor (Little Neal Dancing in my Heart).

This solo piano piece was composed by Chopin in 1930 and dedicated to his older sister.  It was not pubished until 1870, 21 years after the composer’s death. 
The piece was played by Holocaust survivor Natalia Karp for the Nazi concentration camp commandant Amon Goeth while she was imprisoned in Plaszow concentration camp in Poland.  Karp was ordered to play and she chose this piece because it was “sad.”  And, she said “I was dad.”

Goeth was so impressed with Karp’s rendition that he spared her life.  When she finished playing, Goeth said “She shall live.”  Karp responded: “Not without my sister.”  Goeth acquiesced.

Goeth was made famous by Ralph Fiennes’s depiction of him in Shindler’s list.

See, Chopin’s Heart, Poland’s spirit, Madeleine Kearns (3/14/20).

The Nocturne was also the piece played by Holocaust survivor and famed Polish pianist Władysław Szpilman (the central figure of the 2002 Roman Polanski film “The Pianist”) during the last live broadcast of Polish radio on September 23, 1939. While Szpilman was playing Warsaw was being besieged by the German army.

Years later, Szpilman also played this piece for German army officer Wilm Hosenfeld upon their first meeting.  (In the corresponding scene in “The Pianist” Szpilman plays an abridged version of Chopin's Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23.) Hosenfeld later helped Szpilman hide and provided food to him in the last months of the war.

Movie uses of the piece: “The Pianist” “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles “The Karate Kid” “The Peacemaker” “The Innkeeper” “Mafia III” “Frantz” (2016).
Chopin’s elder sister, the sister to whom Chopin dedicated this piece, came to Paris when Chopin became gravely ill. 
It was to her that he made the request to take his heart back to Poland.  She did.  Chopin’s heart was hidden from the Nazis during the war.
You can hear the Nocturne performed by Wladyslaw Szpilman here:
You can listen to a version by Elisabeth Leonskaja on Spotify
Jan Lisiecki performs the Nocturne on iTunes