Frédéric Chopin’s Berceuse, Op. 57, is a lullaby to be played on the piano. He composed it in 1843/44 as variations in D-flat major. Chopin originally called his work Variantes. Berceuse was first published in Paris in 1844 by Joseph Meissonnier, dedicated to Élise Gavard, and appeared in London and Leipzig the following year.
Written late in his career, the lyrical piece features complex pianistic figuration in the continuous flow of variations on a calm bass in always soft dynamics, shaping the music by texture and sonority.
Chopin began the composition in the summer of 1843 at Nohant, where he stayed with George Sand. As the first manuscript was held by the singer Pauline Viardot, the composition may have been inspired by her little daughter, Louisette, who also spent the summer there while her mother was away giving concerts. The theme of the Berceuse echos a song that Chopin may have heard in his childhood, “Już miesiąć zeszedł, psy się uśpily” (The moon now has risen, the dogs are asleep).
Chopin completed Berceuse in 1844, shortly before his Piano Sonata in B minor. It is a series of 16 variations on an ostinato ground bass. In an early sketch of the composition, the “variantes” were even assigned numbers. Chopin first began the work with the theme but wrote two measures of introduction later.
At first the composer titled the work Variantes, but the title was altered for publication to the current Berceuse, “berceuse” literally meaning “Cradle song”. It was first published by Joseph Meissonnier of Paris in 1844 and was dedicated to Élise Gavard (1824–1900), saying on the title page: “Berceuse / pour le piano / dédié à / Mademoiselle Élise Gavard / par / F. CHOPIN.” The first publication in England was by Wessel & Co. in London on 22 June 1845, and the first publication in Germany was by Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig in July 1845.
Chopin – Berceuse in D flat major Op. 57