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I'm sight-reading the second (2a : "Version with later authentic variant") Chopin's nocturne in Eb for piano, Op. 9 No. 2, and I am unsure about how to read the left hand in the second bar :

music score photo

Does the last "natural" sign in this second bar apply to the D or the E in this case?

I'd say the E but it also would be redundant with the first one in that case so I wonder if it wasn't meant for the D.

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2 Answers 2

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It's an E natural. The chord is an E diminished seventh chord over an F pedal tone, which leads back to F minor in the next chord.

The marking would seem to be Chopin's own, as it appears in the Henle urtext edition (image below), and it is placed consistently at each parallel measure (see mm. 6, 14, and 22).

Henle edition, m. 2

It also appears in the (French) first edition, presumably proofread and approved by Chopin. (Source: IMSLP)

French first edition, m. 2

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Based solely on the natural's position and alignment, I'd also say it's for the E and not the D. It's redundant, but that wouldn't be the first time I've seen redundant non-courtesy accidentals in sheet music from books (I typically see those at the starts of measures, though).

Musically, making the natural for the D and not the E destroys the inner descending line in the left hand from E natural to D flat to C by inserting a D natural between the D flat and the C.

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  • In addition, both notes are on the same pedal, that would make it quite crowded with D natural. Also Eb would produce quartal harmony which I think is unusual for Chopin, while with Db-E makes it more probable Bbmadd.#4 Dec 29, 2021 at 14:33
  • It's a courtesy accidental, not a non-courtesy one.
    – Tim
    Dec 29, 2021 at 14:44
  • @Tim - I'm of the firm belief that only accidentals in parentheses are courtesy accidentals.
    – Dekkadeci
    Dec 29, 2021 at 14:48
  • Sounds fair to me, but some embalmers, sorry, engravers...
    – Tim
    Dec 29, 2021 at 14:50
  • @Dekkadeci I do not believe the Henle accidentals in parentheses are courtesy accidentals. They are the editor's way of suggesting which lower and upper notes should be played in the turn, since the sources used to prepare the edition have no indication. The second natural sign on the left-hand E is done as a courtesy, but also serves to avoid an E with no sign, which could be taken for a misprint for a forgotten flat sign.
    – DjinTonic
    Dec 30, 2021 at 21:01

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