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nocturne (nŏkˈtûrn) [Fr.,=night piece], in music, romantic instrumental piece, free in form and usually reflective or languid in character. John Field wrote the first nocturnes, influencing Chopin in the writing of his 19 nocturnes for piano. Others who have written nocturnes include Gabriel Fauré and Francis Poulenc for piano, Debussy for orchestra, and by extension Béla Bartók in his night music pieces.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the name given to various types of musical works. In the 18th and early 19th centuries the nocturne was a divertissement, a composition in several movements similar to the cassation and instrumental serenade. It was written mainly for wind or for wind and string instruments and was usually performed outdoors in the evening or at night, for example, the nocturnes of Mozart and Haydn. J. Field established the nocturne as a short melodious and lyrical piano piece of a dreamy or melancholy nature. Chopin’s 21 piano nocturnes, noted for their depth and richness, represent the fullest development of the genre. R. Schumann, J. Hummel, C. Debussy, M. Reger, and P. Hindemith also wrote nocturnes. In Russian music, outstanding examples include M. I. Glinka’s nocturnes for harp, piano, and voice and piano; A. P. Borodin’s nocturne in the String Quartet No. 2; and A. N. Scriabin’s nocturnes.


Kuznetsov, K. A. “Istoricheskie formy noktiurna.” Iskusstvo, 1925, no. 2.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a short, lyrical piece of music, esp one for the piano
2. a painting or tone poem of a night scene
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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