A Reader's Guide to the Chopin Preludes

A Reader's Guide to the Chopin Preludes

A Reader's Guide to the Chopin Preludes

A Reader's Guide to the Chopin Preludes

Synopsis

In Chopin's set of 24 interconnected Preludes (Op. 28), we are presented with 24 distinct compositional surfaces, aiming at as many distinguishable emotional expressions. As such, the Preludes stand as a virtual survey of the developing musical manners of the 19th century, the stylistic period in which "mood" was promoted most energetically and frankly. Under separate analytic investigation, the technical means to these expressive ends can be discovered and assessed; yet, at the same time, the Preludes can be studied as a total entity, related by precise balances of mood and key, as well as certain subtler interconnecting details. This book is a detailed guide through the Preludes, both individually and as a group.

Excerpt

Through most of its history as a title of a piece of music, the term prelude--literally "before the game" and probably just that originally--denoted the intent of the composition as a precursor of some other, larger composition to follow (of which the prelude itself may or may not have been a part). Hence, it could establish the key, or the mood, or the style of whatever followed, and for a large variety of reasons. A particularly clear (and historically late) instance would be the establishment of mood (or, quite differently, the unfolding of major melodic themes to come) before the curtain rises on an opera.

Chopin's twenty-four preludes for piano, taken either individually or as a group, are quite obviously preludes to nothing-- unless each is prelude to the next prelude. This may have been a historically pivotal situation--in the sense of its heralding a change in the application of this title, such pieces soon becoming "character pieces" in their own right. (And, indeed, one later comes upon like groupings of preludes from Debussy, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Gershwin.) But in this particular, and probably . . .

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