Frederic Chopin’s Nocturne No. 20 in C-sharp minor, op. posthumous, is a languid and lovely solo piano piece that invites reflection and dreaming. It begins with a four-bar introduction and then delivers a melody that is gently repeated with a little embellishment when played the second time. The middle section has its own motif that is repeated down a minor third, and then it leads into a whimsical, percussive section that could be likened to jumping. Chopin did not name his works or give them a programmatic theme, and he disliked it when listeners gave fanciful names to his works, preferring that his audiences make up their own ideas about what they heard in the music.
The last part of this nocturne returns to the opening melody, repeated twice, again allowing the listener to recall its peaceful ambiance. The last eight bars are a coda of transcendent and gossamer beauty. In the first four bars of this coda, the pianist must mesh 18, 11, 35, and 13 scaled notes with the rolling cadence of four eighth notes in slow 4/4 time. These spectacular flourishes are part of what makes Chopin’s piano music so masterfully unique, as he does not adhere to classical or traditional rhythmic structure. The tinkling effect of those four bars and the measured calm of the final four bars of the coda leave the listener in an incomparably relaxed state of mind, and the entire piece provides a special insight into what is possible for the piano’s delicate quality.