2003 May 28
Today's Prelude:The final one, Epic, in D minor
|Major||Opus 28 Number..||My title for it||Minor||Opus 28 Number.||.My title for it|
|C||1||Chasing Kittens||A||2||The Monster|
|D||5||Fits and Starts||B||6||Lost Love|
|A||7||Short and Sweet||F-sharp||8||Frantic|
|E-flat||19||Excelsior||C||20||Sorrow of a Nation|
I haven't been posting too frequently to this blog so I came up with a good idea for doing so. As of late I have been playing the preludes of Chopin's Opus 28. These have always intrigued me. I learned how to play several of them when I was a child, and I found out later that there are 24 preludes in this opus, one in each of the 24 major and minor keys. They cover a wide range of motions, although the major ones tend to be tranquil or happy and the minor ones either sad or angry. So what I have decided to do is to review in a series of blogs each of the 24 preludes. These blogs are summarized on this page. Further, I will give these preludes names. Chopin did not name them, and that causes some people to object, since names like "Prelude in C Major" don't say anything about the piece. It allows one to be imaginative in saying what the prelude means to them, and I am going to do that, giving each of these gems a name. It helps to get a recording of the 24 preludes to listen to while reading my reviews, or maybe the sheet music: they can be bought all at once in a collection. I have completed the 24th prelude in Blogtrek. So now all 24 preludes are on this page. However, I will be bringing in some afterthoughts - for example, a prelude in A-flat and an Etude in A-flat, both Posthumous.
Oh, by the way, how can you listen to these? You could get a CD from Amazon.com. However, this site gives all of them and they seem to play reasonably well: The Chopin MIDI Page.
Chasing Kittens: Chopin's Prelude in C Major
The first prelude is the Prelude in C Major, Opus 28, Number 1. The piece resembles Bach's Well Tempered Clavichord with its rising arpeggios. But it is faster, with a bouncy 6/8 rhythm, and to me it resembles a bunch of kittens that have somehow escaped from a box or cage and are running all over the place. Hence I call this one "Chasing Kittens". I have tried playing this one myself, and find the stretches somewhat hard to deal with, and it is one of these pieces that can get your arms tired if you play it too often. The piece starts out with some simple C major arpeggios, then goes up in pitch and reaches a peak, then settles down to an alteration between C and F chords to a C bass, a passage which reminds me of finally catching all the kittens and putting them back where they belong. It is a sparkling prelude and it is altogether too short, but it sounds complete when it ends.
The Monster: Chopin's Prelude in A Minor
This piece, Opus 28, Number 2, is decidedly a different piece. It starts ominously with a bass that reminds me of the guards in "Wizard of Oz" coming to get Dorothy. It is a piece for Halloween. It doesn't even start in A Minor, but rather in E Minor. It seems to settle down for a while, then it mutates into B Minor, and then the harmonies get really out of whack, with naturals and sharps in the treble, and a discordant C double-sharp in the bass, even in the same two-note chord with a C natural. It makes one feel really disoriented. It sounds unsettled and growly; then it settles down into the sad harmonies of A minor clashing against a clanging F natural in the treble, and it finally ends with a plaintive solo and a couple of concluding chords. Because the piece is so discordant and dominated by a booming bass, I call it "The Monster". It is relatively easy to learn to play, but the monster steps are a bit of a stretch at times. If you try to play the piece, watch your left hand. It waddles and undulates in an awkward manner, sort of like the monsters coming out of the dungeon. If you really want this to sound scary for Halloween, plug it into a music program such as Cakewalk and set the monster steps for some low-pitched vibrato bass and the melody for something like Chorus Aahs.
Roly-Poly: Chopin's Prelude in G Major
Most pieces have a running line of notes or an arpeggio in the melody and chords in the bass. Not in this inverted prelude, Chopin's Prelude in G Major, Opus 28, Number 3. This one has a rolling series of sixteenth notes in the bass, and a melody formed as though it were an accompaniment, with an occasional chord. While the bass tires of the piece roll along, the chords ride happily in the jalopy of this rolling piece. The piece reminds me sort of a toy which you turn upside down, and it rights itself. I therefore call it "Roly-Poly". Playing this piece is an effort to learn the fingering in the bass so you can roll it off your fingertips without stumbling. It is a happy tune, a little like frolicking in the park in the first warm day of spring.
Moonlight: Chopin's Prelude in E Minor
Chopin's Prelude Opus 28 Number 4 has a haunting mood and slow changes in harmony that make it seem like the light from a fire or the light from shimmering sources, such as moonlight on a lake. Hence I call this one "Moonlight". The melody of this piece isn't much; it goes back and forth between two notes and then it descends. Then like a flute player trying to catch his breath, it pauses, then starts its plaintive melody again. This time it goes through a different string of harmonies. It then soars to a climax and descends into the three-chord ending. At each stage of the harmony, one or two notes change at a time, changing the chord: E minor, F-sharp diminished, F7, F minor 7, and so forth. Of course different notes could have been changed. In fact, this piece can be computerized. I once wrote a program to write a Chopin Prelude in E Minor Opus 28 Number 4 Variant by selecting random notes in the downward descents, which you can play by clicking the name. The computer variant sounds pretty much OK but was more discordant and so had a more macabre feel. The computer could have chosen one of millions of Preludes, and in fact Chopin chose one of them and called it his Prelude in E Minor. It is fairly easy to play, but what is tricky is to get the emotion into it because it drags out a sense of melancholy in you and you feel it as you play the tune. It is a good piece to play on a soft summer night.
NOTE: 2008 January 20. I recently played one of my favorites from 25 or so years ago, The Mystic Moods Orchestra plays Nighttide. It had a piece that I hadn't heard of before, namely Daphne's Theme. I played it and found that it was Chopin's Prelude Opus 28 Number 4 in E minor! It is an interesting variation, with a beat, and I wish I could find more information on it. Unfortunately, when I Googled on it, just about every reference to "daphne's theme" refers to the Mystic Moods orchestra, suggesting it was an original with them. Have any other Opus 28 preludes be made into popular music? I think Barry Manilow did one on the Prelude in C Minor.
Fits and Starts: Chopin's Prelude in D Major
This Prelude, Opus 28, Number 5, seemed like an ordinary enough tune, and I found it difficult to pin a name on it. Recently, though, I tried playing it. Playing this prelude requires coordination between the two hands and a few jumps of an octave or so. It is a continuous piece with an endless-seeming string of sixteenth notes, six to a measure. To me, when I played it and when I listen to it, the piece does not ever seem to get really going. It goes by fits and starts. It starts first of all with a melody oscillating between B and B-flat (Chopin is using blue notes! The blues had yet to be invented.) Then it resolves into D major, or does it? It starts wandering off again into B minor and continues meandering through a series of harmonies until it finally shoots up to a high D and then settles down to a couple of closing chords. It has a happy feel to it, and sounds pleasant, although its sudden turns keeps you alert. So I find that the prelude has a distinctive character after all.
Lost Love: Chopin's Prelude in B Minor
I don't know why Chopin wrote so many depressing preludes. They all seem to sound alike. They all could be funeral songs, it seems. Or wait. Maybe some are different. Chopin's Prelude in B minor, Opus 28, Number 6, sounds funereal. It sounds like someone grieving over a loved one that has been lost. So I call it "Lost Love". It could be a significant other that has left them for someone else. It could be a husband or wife that has recently passed away. It could even be for a person that has changed significantly, so they aren't the same person any more. That is what this prelude seems to me. It sounds different from the E minor prelude in that the E minor prelude is more haunting and pensive. It is different from C minor in that the C minor prelude is more formal and majestic. The B minor prelude may be written for the wrong instrument. Most of the melody is in the bass, so that this is really a cello solo. If you play it, the tricky part is to keep the right hand soft so that you don't hear its drone above the melody in the bass. Every once in a while the melody passes into the treble, so it is an interchange between the two parts. The piece does have a notational inconsistency. A note in a chord with a C sharp and an A sharp is written F double sharp, but later it is written G natural. This is causes by a notational paradox in the first instance; the note wants to be both F double sharp and G natural at the same time. Indeed this prelude is indeed a sad melody. Fortunately, tomorrow I will review a happier prelude.
Short and Sweet: Chopin's Prelude in A Major
This is the shortest of the preludes in Chopin's Opus 28. Number 7 is a brief waltz, that takes a theme and repeats it four times, following fairly standard harmonies, and ends in an A major chord. It comes, and then it is gone; too bad, because it is a really sweet number. Hence I call this one "Short and Sweet". At times I thought of continuing it but it is hard to do; it is like finding compounds of noble gases such as argon because the piece is complete as it is. This is the first Opus 28 prelude I have ever heard; I was only about 7 or 8 when I heard it the first time on a 45-rpm record that my parents had bought; it came with the Prelude in D Minor (Epic, number 24, which I will cover on 2003 May 27) on the same side, and that one seemed so complicated that I thought that it was forever out of my reach. I will discuss that later, but indeed I also learned how to play the A Major prelude. It is easy to play, but it needs to be played with feeling. One huge chord in the treble at the end of the third theme looks unplayable; the way to play the chord is to hit the A-sharp and the C-Sharp simultaneously with the thumb astraddle the two black keys. This means that the piece can't be transposed into another key without risking the playability of this chord. But no matter; the piece was made to be played in A Major and it stands as a completed work as it is.
Frantic: Chopin's Prelude in F-sharp Minor
Opus 28 Number 8 reminds me of some of the angry-mood pieces of Beethoven such as the Appassionata Sonata and the third movement of the Moonlight Sonata. This one has a driving melody in the treble with a descending triplet bass. It also has an obbligato in the treble written with small notes. When I hear the piece I wonder how one can move one's hand so fast on the keys, but I tried it once and found that the notes were selected to fit into the hand, so it is not that hard to catch its rhythm. Nevertheless, this is a difficult piece to play and I have not attempted to play it much. Instead, I put it into Cakewalk. When I do that I find that I have to double the melody notes, else they can't be heard over the din of the frantic obbligato. I feel that this piece sounds frantic, hence my name for it. Its discordant chromatic scales contribute to the agitation in the piece. It reaches a peak near the end and descends into a soft ending, finally concluding, like several of the other preludes, with three or four slow chords. To me this is the most Beethoven-like of Chopin's Opus 28 preludes.
Sunrise: Chopin's Prelude in E Major
Chopin's Opus 28, Number 9, rumbles in the bass like an enormous church organ. It sets off a theme, then reaches a peak before settling down to a big climax at the end. Indeed it reminds me of a hymn, but its deep tones and its climaxing reminds me of something else - the Sun rising in the east. To me the notes suggest the lightening that gradually takes place in the sky before Sunrise before the Sun makes its grand appearance. It is fairly easy to play; the main difficulty would be to deal with repeated notes in the chords. This is a good one to play if you want something dramatic to play on the piano somewhere to catch someone's attention. It would be a good part of any church service, especially the prelude in the service.
Tricks: Chopin's Prelude in C-sharp Minor
This is one of those pieces that float around, not doing much of anything. It sounds like improvising, which has taken the greatest strides in jazz, producing what I call "deedle-deedle" jazz. Chopin's Prelude in C-sharp Minor, Opus 28, Number 10, is not so much deedle-deedle as it is a bunch of conjurer tricks. Imagine a magician appealing to the sky, causing a magic effect to drop down and achieve some paradoxical result. This is what this piece reminds me of. So I call this prelude "Tricks". It happens four times, and then suddenly it's gone, like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. It is not too hard to play; the fingerings in the downward "tricks" are what have to be learned. Altogether, a little frill of magic.
Incidentally, the key of C-sharp minor seems to be a favorite with classical composers, so much so that I call this the "classical key". Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and Chopin's Waltz in C-sharp Minor are other pieces written in this key. It is said to be Chopin's favorite key, and it is interesting to note that the longest C-sharp minor passage in Opus 28 is not in this prelude but in Number 15 in D-flat (C-sharp's alter ego), the Storm, which I review below.
Contentment: Chopin's Prelude in B Major
This prelude, Opus 28, Number 11, suggests contentment to me, hence the name. It is a happy and resolved piece. Down under the contented exterior, there are some unexpected turns. These come out if you play the prelude. You stumble all over the place to begin with because the notes are not where you expect them. An arpeggio goes zigzag up and down then it unexpectedly goes up after an up. The pieces of the prelude do fit together into an organized whole. So this can be thought of as a Yin-Yang piece: there is a disturbance in the contentment. It terminates with a one-note solo (as do the preludes in D flat, A minor, and some others) followed by parallel fifths (Fx-Cx -> G#-D#), something the classical musical theorists say should not be done. So Chopin is breaking ground with this pleasant-sounding piece.
Agitated: Chopin's Prelude in G-sharp Minor
Here, in Opus 28, Number 12, is a fast and agitated waltz. First there is the rising strain of notes from a G-sharp minor chord, reminding me of a climactic buildup, misplaced at the beginning of a number, not the end. The buildup resolves itself, only to rebuild again. The waltz goes like this for a while, shifting keys a bit and building up to a big climax with its D-sharp minor chords. It then continues on and on, until it reduces to just two notes jumping back and forth. The waltz then resumes and ebbs away, only to have two sprightly octaves pop up at the end. It is not too hard to learn to play, although some of the chords are a bit of a stretch. There is also the problem of moving one finger of the right hand while keeping the thumb on the same note. I suppose one could dance the waltz to this, but it would be a bit more forceful than the usual waltz, because every one of the three beats is accented, not just the first one. As a waltz, this piece has somewhat of a Slavic feel, but that may just be because of the minor key. In any case, it seems to be the direct opposite of the previous prelude in B Major.
Dream: Chopin's Prelude in F-sharp Major
Opus 28 Number 13 is a dream. It is a relaxed 3/4 piece with sustained chords suggesting a contented state. The middle section goes into some dreamy harmonies: first into C-sharp major, then into B major, then finally ending on an elusive D-sharp minor/F-sharp major ambiguous chord that does not resolve itself until the final chord. This piece is the last of the sharp key preludes in Opus 28. The next one would be in D-sharp minor, but here Chopin flip-flops into flats into E-flat minor, presumably because the leading tone there would be a natural instead of a double-sharp. The piece reminds me strongly of Chopin's Posthumous Etude Number 2, which is marked by a duple-time bass with bass notes that come up and down in an sine-wave pattern with a 3/4 treble. I call that one "Mercury" because to me it symbolizes the 3/2 pattern of Mercury's rotation and revolution around the Sun. This 3/2 juxtaposition appears also in Opus 28 Number 13, as does the sine-wave bass, in the middle dreamy section. This piece also has some interesting harmonies, such as E natural over E sharp in the middle section, and apparently Chopin at the end wanted to play some chords that are unplayable because they stretch more than a tenth. A good prelude to play just before going to bed. Tomorrow starts the flat preludes.
Throbbing: Chopin's Prelude in E-flat Minor
Opus 28 Number 14 is the first of Chopin's Opus 28 preludes in a flat key. It seems simple enough. The right and left hand parts are identical, except an octave apart. I was going to say treble and bass parts, but almost all the way through the piece, both parts are bass. So this prelude grumbles. It is relatively easy to learn, since you do the same thing with your left and right hands. Some of the notes are tricky to read, especially when a D natural greets you after an F-flat major chord. Shouldn't that be an E double-flat? But the hardest thing to get is the dynamics. Follow the crescendos and diminuendos carefully. The song is a continuous rise from soft to loud to soft to loud, giving it a throbbing feel, like a pain from an injury; hence the name. The piece keeps on going with the eighth notes non-stop until thump, it ends with a concluding octave E-flat. Not a good prelude to listen to if you hurt somewhere.
Storm: Chopin's Prelude in D-flat Major
This, along with Number 17 (A-flat) and Number 20 (C minor) is one of the more well-known pieces in Chopin's Opus 28. This one, Number 15, is usually called the Raindrop Prelude because of the constant A-flat eighth notes pitter-pattering in the bass like a light rain shower. The beginning and end of this piece are tranquil, something like the F-sharp or A major preludes, like a pretty day out in the garden. But that is not what makes this piece notable. To me the most characteristic part of this prelude is the middle part, a troubled C-sharp minor passage that reminds me either of a bad dream, or of the tranquil day represented by the rest of the piece interrupted by a storm, replete with thunder. I therefore call this one "Storm". It is the longest C-sharp minor passage in the Preludes of Opus 28, even longer than the C-sharp minor (Opus 10) Prelude itself. The song starts tranquilly, with a constant series of A-flat eighth notes, but then all of a sudden during a resolution from an E-flat 7 chord, it not only changes mood but name as well: the A-flats become G-sharps as the piece enters the C-sharp storm. The G-sharps keep pattering away, while an ominous series of chords accumulate in the bass. These eventually resolve into bangs, symbolizing thunder. The storm continues to rage, featuring a strange resolution from G-sharp minor to B augmented and back to G-sharp minor again. After the thunder reaches a climax, the rest of the C-sharp minor part develops melody, perhaps symbolizing the rainstorm and finally calming down and going back to the tranquil part as the G-sharps become A-flats again. The piece naturally has to flip-flop from flats to sharps when it goes into minor; else we have a passage in C-sharp Major (rare) or in D-flat minor (impossible). But to me this transition from flats to sharps also symbolizes the subtle and sudden change of moods from happy to sullen and back again.
It is not too hard to learn, and it is a good one to put into a program such as Cakewalk - I would insert audio thunderclaps to coincide with the musical ones in the middle part. Although I have found stronger storms in Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony Number 6, in Ferde Grofé's Grand Canyon Suite, in Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps or in Andreas Vollenweider's recording from an actual thunderstorm in his album Behind the Garden, I regard this as one of the better preludes of this opus.
Scurrying: Chopin's Prelude in B-flat Minor
Chopin's Prelude Opus 28, Number 16 runs all over the place and is not the easiest to master. It features jumpy triples of notes in the bass, and a scurrying around in the treble going up and down the black keys of the piano, with an occasional breakout to the white keys to provide the F7 dominants. I tried playing it and although I could get the general action of the running up and down the keyboard, I could not get it perfect, and coordinating it with the jumpy left hand is even harder yet. The entire piece reminds me of someone running around and scurrying all over the place, sort of like a mouse running all about the floor looking for cheese or for a place to hide from the cat. So I call this one "Scurrying". It continues for four pages of printed music scurrying almost non-stop until it drifts down into the bass, sort of like the mouse finding the hole in the wall, and then pum! pum! it's all over; he's in his hole. Chopin does not break any ground with this one with the usual standard harmonies of B-flat minor, E-flat minor, and F7th. But it still is an interesting one to listen to, and it will get your heart pumping.
Autumn Idyll: Chopin's Prelude in A-flat Major
This is a magnificent prelude. Opus 28, Number 17 features luscious harmonies and harmonic transitions, a sonorous melody, and a majestic bass that at times reminds me of a huge organ at a cathedral, not to mention the 13 chiming bass A-flats in the last part of the piece that reminds me of a bell tolling out 13 o'clock. To me it reminds me of one of these gorgeous days in the autumn (or in the spring) in the park under the trees, sunny with moderately cool winds, that entice you to spend the entire afternoon out in the park sitting and admiring the nature that is around us. It is one that I learned when I was a child. The most interesting part was that with many of the chords, the left hand overlaps the right, so that if you are not careful, you stumble all over the place on the keyboard when you play it. It starts out with the melody in 6/8 time, or maybe a fast 3/4 waltz. It does have some unexpected transitions, such as E-flat to D-flat instead of the more usual B-flat 7. This tripped me up when I played it for my piano teacher - I kept wanting to play D natural instead of D-flat. It then goes four keys flatwise, and thus into sharps, into the key of E. The harmonies then go from one key to another - C-sharp minor, E7, D-sharp major, C-sharp major and so forth, finally winding up in an alteration between E-flat and A-flat minor. We then return to the main theme, but this time with the volume of an enormous church organ, as the bass hits the lowest keys of the piano. It then goes into a variation of the alternate theme, then goes back into a plain A-flat ending with its bell-like series of A-flats in the bass. This is a piece I want to hear over and over again, and I hope to hear it at a concert sooner or later.
Virtuoso: Chopin's Prelude in F Minor
Have you ever wanted to get up on a stage and sing a few broad and loud phrases to a sophisticated audience? That is what this piece suggests to me. Chopin's Prelude in F Minor, Opus 28, Number 18, suggests such virtuosity; hence the name, "Virtuoso". It starts with an angry argument that ends in a harsh, off-balance discord, based on F-G-flat. It repeats this argument and then goes into an arpeggioistic fit, followed by the same arguing line, this time in the sub-dominant key of B-flat minor. It then proceeds through a bunch of quarreling phrases, including some with a banging E double-flat in four octaves, and then it descends into the bass, where it mutters and fades into the final chords. It takes a bit of practice to get the running lines down, but once you do, you get a sort of satisfaction out of playing the phrases and then banging the keys when the downbeat chord occurs, sort of like punching a punching bag. It's a good piece to play if you want to boast about your piano-playing ability, or if you want to get some anger off your chest. Take your frustrations out on this piece instead of on your neighbor for raking onto your lawn, and you will be calmer and better able to deal with the crisis. This is one of his better preludes
Excelsior: Chopin's Prelude in E-flat Major
It took me a long time to figure out what to call Chopin's Opus 28, Number 19 in E-flat. It is a waltz or gavotte of some sort, but it did not seem to have any unusual features. Recently when I played it I noticed that I was having to stretch my hand longer and longer in the treble until eventually I was having to span two octaves with each hand, making this a prelude that is difficult to learn to play. The theme of higher and higher has appeared before, as lower and lower in Opus 28, Number 15 ("Dream") and in the Posthumous Etude Number 2 ("Mercury"). I thought of "Higher and Higher" as a name for this prelude but that is the name of a pop song, and I wanted something more interesting. Then I thought of it: Excelsior, which means "ever upward" in Latin and is the motto of my home state, New York. As such it is an inspiring prelude, with its striving to hit loftier and loftier heights, and it fits neatly between the fits of anger of its predecessor and the tragedy of its successor.
Sorrow of a Nation: Chopin's Prelude in C Minor
Chopin's Prelude in C Minor, Opus 28, Number 20, is the most
famous of Chopin's Opus 28 preludes. It is part of the repertoire of every
moderately advanced youthful piano student and is played frequently at public
gatherings, especially funerals and memorial services. It has even become
part of a popular rock song in the 1980s. It is in the form of a funeral march,
starting out loud and then going soft before building up at the end. It features
huge chords which descend the depths of the piano and a melody which practically
sings. To me, this mournful sorrow expresses the sorrow of one of Chopin's
home countries, Poland. So I follow Joseffy's commentary and call it "Sorrow
of a Nation".
Poland has not had a happy history. It was a kingdom at one time in the middle of the second millennium, but Germans, Austrians, and Russians subsequently invaded it and caused it to cease to exist for hundreds of years. It finally gained independence in 1918, only to be divided up again between Russia (Soviet Union) and Germany in World War II, followed by two generations of Communist rule. It is now a democracy, but for most of its history it has not been a good place to live, including Chopin's time, when it was occupied mainly by Russia. I believe that Chopin had Poland in mind when he wrote this song, and he aspired desperately for the day when his country could be its own nation again. In playing it, feel the sorrow of Poland and this will give you a good idea of the dynamics that should be used. In the first stanza, a stanza that runs G7, C7, F-minor feels like it should resolve to the C major again, especially since G major follows it. But it goes instead to C minor - make sure to play E flat instead of E. A magnificent tragic prelude.
April: Chopin's Prelude in B-flat Major
Chopin's Prelude in B-flat Major, Opus 28, Number 21, is dominated by patterns in which two notes in unison or close to each other move farther and farther apart from each other, usually in the bass. It seems like this prelude is continually opening up throughout. When I hear those chords, I imagine a flower blooming in fast motion. So this is the Opening Up Prelude. I call it "April" because "April" means opening up; it is similar to the Spanish word abrir, meaning to open. The prelude is not too hard to play although there are some stretches here and there.
To me this prelude symbolizes the never-ending quest for truth
and meaning, the fourth principle of my religious group, Unitarian Universalism.
It starts with the opening up portions in the bass. To me this symbolizes
Discovery, the things we find out about our existence that we have not known
before. It is a never ending quest of constant opening up. Occasionally a
discovery comes that is so dramatic that it seems that we found The Answer.
This appears in the prelude as the booming, blaring middle part in the key
of G-flat. It sounds like the Ultimate Trumpet above saying "This is
The Answer!!". It is so perfect in harmony and its chords are so loud
and clear that we feel that we have found the answer for everything. But look
again. This passage is almost all on black keys. It seems that we have ignored
a lot. At best it is only a partial answer. So we look at it again and get
doubts about it. In the prelude this comes out as the G-flat 7 part, which
comes in like a question mark. That F-flat makes the chord unsettled. It is
not even the usual type of flat. People think of flats as being black keys,
but this one is a white key, the one normally called E. It makes us wonder.
Do we have the answer? We begin to have doubts. The revelation begins to lose
some of its sparkle. Then the prelude reverts back to the April part where
everything opens up. It concludes with the opening-ups still continuing. To
me these musical blooms remind me of a part of The Truth opening up to us.
Sometimes they strike us like a G-flat thunderbolt, only to have a 7th note
take the wind out of the bolt. So what do we do with these blooms? Treasure
them while they last. Take advantage of each one, but remember that there
is more to life than just these few blooms.
Tumult: Chopin's Prelude in G Minor
UNFAIR! NO MORE WAR! XYZ COMPANY UNFAIR TO UNION WORKERS! DUMP THE HUMP! USA GO HOME! Can you feel it? This is the prelude of the protest movement, of social unrest and of demonstrations. Another Chopin piece that resembles this prelude is his Revolutionary Etude. Yes, Chopin's Prelude in G minor, Opus 28, number 22, is the tumultuous one, hence my name for it. Its tempestuous phrases build up to a climax similar to that of Prelude 18's, then it fades away, as though the energy of the protestors was suddenly zapped. This prelude differs from Prelude 18 (in F minor) in that 18's phrases seem like isolated fits, while 22's is more continuous, incessant, and demanding. It is this incessant pounding in the middle that reminds me of a protest movement, especially one that turns into a melee or a revolution. The piece jumps octaves all over the place, making this one a hard one to master, although with some practice I found that I could do it. But it is a good one for a protest group to play before going out into the streets.
Floating: Chopin's Prelude in F Major
Have you, as a child, blown bubbles and watch them float away? or perhaps you launched a paper airplane and watched it soar in the air currents, or maybe a balloon or a bunch of balloons? Don't you wish you could float away for an afternoon? That is what Chopin's Prelude Opus 28, Number 23 reminds me of. Its up and down strains remind me of floating around. The music is fairly organized - an F section, and then one in C, then one in F again, then to the sub-dominant in B-flat and back to F again. But it still gives me the impression of disordered drifting, as it continues to soar. Each section is about a fifth higher than the previous until the prelude is twinkling the highest keys of the keyboard. Then it drifts down like a balloon that has burst or hit a downdraft back into the middle of the keyboard. What happens next is really interesting. Chopin closes with an F arpeggio in both hands first together up, then treble up-bass down, and right at the turn point Chopin throws in an out-of-key E-flat. That colors the entire ending. It feels incomplete, as an F7 chord wants to resolve to B-flat, yet this continues right up into an F. But it does fit in with the floating nature of the piece, and one might consider this to be another blue note that Chopin has thrown into his music, an elusive out-of-chord note reminiscent of his Posthumous Prelude in A-flat, with a B-Flat in the final A-flat ending. As far as playing it, it is not too hard, although it feels awkward with the fingers overlapping the thumb on the descending notes. A good song for a lazy spring day.
Epic: Chopin's Prelude in D Minor
And finally we come to the end. Chopin's Prelude Opus 28, Number 24, in D minor. This one is full of theatrics, with a roaring bass that is incessant throughout the piece, long runs across the keyboard, and a final threesome bang of the low D on the piano that is a fitting conclusion to the opus. It is like a long story that keeps going on and on, with plots and acts, and so I call it Epic. The piece is dramatic and is a pleasure to play, even though it is one of the more difficult pieces to play. When I was a child I was in awe of those who could play a piece like this. But I have found that it is actually easier to play than the preludes in E-flat, B-flat minor, or F-sharp minor. Outside of the bass, the runs, and the sparkling thirds at the climax, there is just the one-note melody. The bass is a bit of a stretch, and playing those twelfths over and over again can get your left hand tired quickly. The runs need some practice but I was surprised that I could do one of them rather well right now. The thirds are the part that would get me. I have always had a problem playing thirds.
This piece has an interesting chordal progression which allows it to be expanded into a really impressive epic. It starts in the key of D minor, then goes to F, then C7, and then F. It then transitions through an E7-flatted 9 to A minor, and then the entire piece starts all over again, down a fifth in A minor. It goes through the same types of transitions, from E minor to G major and then to the relative major, in this case C. Through the same type of chord progression it goes into E minor. At this point it takes an abrupt turn into C minor. But up to now we have a chord progression that goes one notch sharpward from D minor to A minor to E minor. My idea is to continue this right on, through B minor, F-sharp minor, C-sharp minor and so forth around the circle of fifths until I get back to D minor again. I tried this once (I since have lost it) in Cakewalk and it does sound impressive - you have to keep adjusting between fifths and fourths to avoid having it descend into the lowest notes of the piano. Getting back to the original piece, the transition from D-flat major to D-flat augmented to D minor is interesting and perverse - the usual sequence goes through D diminished instead. The descending thirds is rather unexpected in the climatic buildup and reminds me of leaves falling from a tree. And of course there is the final descent and the three low D tolls at the end, signaling the end of the piece and of Opus 28. And so that ends this sequence of reviews as well.
Not with my "Just add one" philosophy. There are more.
I have decided to add two more Preludes, because of their interest to me.
One is a posthumous prelude in G-sharp Major. All right, it is in A flat.
I was trying to avoid duplicating a key, which is impossible now since all
keys have been covered. The other is the one I mentioned earlier in connection
with Number 15, "Mercury", also in A-flat, an intriguing piece with
triple time in the treble and duple time. Also, tonight, I noticed that there
is a number 25 and a 26 in Opus 28, and I would like to find out more about
them. They seem like afterthoughts. So this series is to be continued...
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