Preludes (Chopin)

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Chopin by Franz Xaver Winterhalter

Preludes, Op. 28 is a collection of 24 short musical works for solo piano, written by Frédéric Chopin between 1837 and 1838 and published in the middle of 1839, just after the composer's winter stay on the isle of Majorca with George Sand.

Chopin was greatly influenced by Johann Sebastian Bach when he wrote these preludes. Each of the works in the collection is in a different major or minor key, with not one being left out, just like Bach's 24 preludes and fugues in The Well-Tempered Clavier. But unlike Bach, Chopin arranges the preludes in order through the circle of fifths. The first prelude in the set is in C major, the next in A minor, then G major, E minor, and so on, until the last two, which are in F major and finally D minor.

The Preludes are all very different. Many are very short (they take only about one minute each to play), so the atmosphere changes quickly, and this can make the overall structure seem out of place. Artists have recorded the entire set of preludes on CDs, and they are often performed in concerts as well.

One of the well-known pieces from the Preludes is Prelude No. 15, in D-flat major and nicknamed "Raindrop". This nickname refers to the monotonous repetition of one note in the accompaniment. It reminded early music lovers of the dripping of raindrops. Another well-known number is Prelude No. 4, in E minor, with its melancholy descending chords in the accompaniment.

Besides the 24 preludes of Op. 28, Chopin would write three more preludes, Op. 45 in C-sharp minor (composed in 1841), one in A-flat major (1834), and the so-called "Devil's Trill" Prelude, in E-flat minor, which Chopin never ended up finishing.

References[change | change source]

  • Woodstra, Chris, et. al. 2005. All Music Guide to Classical Music. All Media Guide, LLC. p. 290. ISBN 0-87930-865-6.