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.
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.
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.
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
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
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