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Chopin: Préludes Op. 28 (a selection, with sheet music)

Chopin: Préludes Op. 28 (a selection, with sheet music)

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    Chopin – 24 Préludes, Op. 28 No. 1 (with sheet music/partition)

    Chopin – Prélude Op. 28 No. 4 in E Minor (with sheet music)

    Chopin – 24 Préludes, Op. 28 No. 6 (with sheet music)

    Chopin – 24 Préludes, Op. 28 No. 9 (with sheet music)

    Chopin – 24 Préludes, Op. 28 No. 7 (with sheet music)

    Chopin – 24 Preludes, Op. 28 No. 20 (with sheet music)

    Chopin – Prélude Op. 28 No. 18 in F minor with sheet music

    THE CHOPIN PRELUDES, OPUS 28

    Along with Bach’s Wohltemperierte Clavier, the Chopin Twenty-four Preludes Op. 28 are at the core of any concert pianist’s training by being an excellent introduction to the study of Chopin’s piano works and to the practice of his influences as a pianist and teacher. The Preludes also reveal the fact that Chopin’s compositions were influenced equally by the expression of emotions and by the demands of musical form. In these pieces, Chopin developed an already established genre into something quite extraordinary.

    Date of composition

    Although completed and published as a set in 1839, there is considerable controversy regarding their date of origin, and how many and which preludes were composed or completed in Majorca.

    Cortot believed that only the slow-moving preludes could have been
    composed there because Chopin’s cell-like room was too resonant,
    and the vibrations of the piano too great, for the chromatic sequences
    of the faster pieces. Eigeldinger considers the Preludes as a complete work, basing his study on its final realization at the midpoint of Chopin’s composing career.

    The following table showing the years the preludes Op. 28 were composed is taken from the Henle edition.

    chopin preludes sheet music partition

    Editions

    The preludes were first published in Paris in June 1839 by Catelin with the French rights and dedication to Camille Pleyel. The German edition was published in the same year by Kistner in Leipzig, and was dedicated to J.C. Kessler. Chopin sent his manuscript to Fontana for copying on 22 January 1839 which therefore marks the final date for his revisions and is the only real evidence that the work was completed prior to that date.

    Fontana’s copy was the basis for the first German edition, while Chopin’s manuscript was the basis for the first French edition. Amongst the most popular editions used today is the Paderewski edition (1949) from The Fryderyk Chopin Institute of Polish Music Publications. The editors aim “to establish a text which fully reveals Chopin’s thought and corresponds to his intentions as closely as possible” and is based upon Chopin’s autograph manuscripts and the copies approved by him, and first editions.

    Also in frequent use is the German Urtext (1982) which uses source material from the Autograph and first French edition, and the Cortot edition, (1957) published by Salabert, in which Cortot lists his titles for each prelude and includes interpretative and technical practice suggestions.

    Titles

    Besides George Sand’s infamous “Raindrop” title to the fifteenth prelude, the most famous descriptive titles are those by Alfred Cortot which are included in his edition of the Preludes published by Salabert.

    chopin sheet music
    chopin sheet music

    Critical response

    The most famous critical responses to the Preludes are found in reviews from Liszt and Schumann. Liszt recognized the significance of the work, knowing that Chopin had created an influential new genre that would inspire composers into the future.

    Chopin’s preludes are unique compositions.
    They are not simply, as their title would
    suggest, pieces intended as an introduction to
    something further; they are poetic preludes
    similar to those of a great contemporary poet
    [Lamartine] which gently ease the soul into a
    golden dream world and then whisk it away
    to the highest realms of the ideal. Admirable
    in their diversity, they require scrupulous
    examination of the workmanship and thought
    which have gone into them before they can be
    properly appreciated. Even then they still
    retain the appearance of spontaneous

    improvisations produced without the slightest
    effort. They possess that freedom and charm
    which characterize works of genius.

    Revue et gazette musicale de Paris. 2 May 1842. p. 246.

    Schumann reacted to the Preludes with less enthusiasm, being
    somewhat disturbed at their diversity:

    Preludes are strange pieces. I confess I
    imagined them differently, and designed in
    the grandest style, like his Etudes. But almost
    the opposite is true: they are sketches,
    beginnings of Etudes, or, so to speak, ruins,
    eagle wings, a wild motley of pieces. But each
    piece, written in a fine, pearly hand, shows:
    ‘Frederick Chopin wrote it.’ One recognises
    him in the pauses by the passionate
    breathing. He is and remains the boldest and
    proudest poetic mind of the time. The
    collection also contains the morbid, the
    feverish, the repellent. May each search what
    suits him; may only the philistine stay
    away!

    Performance
    The opinion of the Preludes being, as Schumann stated, a “wild motley of pieces”, prevailed through to this century until Cortot and Busoni popularised the practice of playing the complete set.

    Certainly, performing complete works such as the Preludes or Études
    was not customary before the beginning of this century, and we know
    from reviews of Chopin’s concerts that he never played the complete
    Op. 28 in public. Keeping with traditions of that period, the most he
    played at the one time were four preludes in a concert on the 26
    April 1841. Today, most concert pianists have the complete Op. 28 in their repertoire and it is not uncommon to see the entire work programmed or at least several preludes performed as a group.

    However, some pianists and critics do consider that programming
    complete sets of Chopin’s works, such as the twenty-four preludes, or
    either book of études, is not what Chopin intended and is rather an
    aesthetic of our time, in which there is more emphasis upon
    performing large-scale works. Some also question the musical
    grounds for grouping pieces together that have little more in
    commoner than their formal structure or generic title. Also, to be
    considered is the matter of creating a balanced program: when
    performed in recital as a whole, the Preludes would be the major
    work as they have a duration of over forty minutes. In any case, the
    Chopin Twenty-four Preludes Op. 28 hold a unique position in the
    literature for the piano and should be part of every pianist’s
    repertoire.

    (Next Article: MUSICAL AND INTERPRETATIVE ANALYSIS)