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  • 8/9/2019 Chopins 24 Prludes, Opus 28 (Boelcke)




    I, _________________________________________________________,

    hereby submit this work as part of the requirements for the degree of:


    It is entitled:

    This work and its defense approved by:

    Chair: _______________________________





    November 21, 2008

    Andreas M. Boelcke

    Doctor of Musical Arts

    Piano Performance

    Chopins 24 Prludes, Opus 28:

    A Cycle Unified by Motion between the

    Fifth and Sixth Scale Degrees

    bruce d. mcclung, Ph. D.

    Frank Weinstock, M. M.

    Elizabeth Pridonoff, M. M.

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    Chopins 24 Prludes, Opus 28:

    A Cycle Unified by Motion between theFifth and Sixth Scale Degrees

    A document submitted to the

    The Graduate Schoolof the University of Cincinnati

    in partial fulfillment of the

    requirements for the degree of


    in the Keyboard Studies Divisionof the College-Conservatory of Music



    Andreas Boelcke

    B.A., Missouri Western State University in Saint Joseph, 2002

    M.M., University of Cincinnati, 2005

    Committee Chair: bruce d. mcclung, Ph.D.

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    Chopins twenty-four Prludes, Op. 28 stand out as revolutionary in history, for they are neither

    introductions to fugues, nor etude-like exercises as those preludes by other early nineteenth-century

    composers such as Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Johan Baptist Cramer, Friedrich Kalkbrenner, and

    Muzio Clementi. Instead they are the first instance of piano preludes as independent character

    pieces. This study shows, however, that Op. 28 is not just the beginning of the Romantic prelude

    tradition but forms a coherent large-scale composition unified by motion between the fifths and

    sixth scale degrees. After an overview of the compositional origins of Chopins Op. 28 and an

    outline of the history of keyboard preludes, the set will be compared to the contemporaneous onesby Hummel, Clementi, and Kalbrenner. The following chapter discusses previous theories of

    coherence in Chopins Prludes, including those by Jsef M. Chominski, Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger,

    and Anselm Gerhard. The final chapter consists of an analysis demonstrating that all twenty-four

    preludes are distinguished and unified by recurrences of movement between the fifth and sixth

    scale degrees. The scalar movements are grouped into the following categories: scalar motion as

    melodic idea, motion between fifth and sixth scale degree as motivic seed, alternation between

    major and minor sixth scale degrees, alternation between the two scale degrees to form an

    underlying structure, motion of fifth and sixth scale degrees highlighted by marcatoaccents, and

    motion between the two scale degrees at climactic moments. The study includes all twenty-four

    preludes and shows that the movements between the two scale degrees appear in significant ways

    throughout the set to unify the entire composition and create a coherent cycle.

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    Copyright 2008 by Andreas M. BoelckeAll rights reserved

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    During the work on this document in 2007, I lost three family members, first my aunt who

    had always been like a mother to me, one month later my dear father, and less than two months

    after that my first-born child, Adrian. All deaths were unexpected and shocking. Going through this

    difficult time would have been impossible without my wife, who has not only supported me in

    these times but also encouraged me to continue with this project.

    I want to further thank my advisor, Dr. mcclung who has taught mewith his many

    correctionsmore about writing style, research, and how to organize my thoughts on paper than

    anyone else in my academic career. This document would have never been possible without hishelp.

    My further thanks go to the two readers of this document, Professor Frank Weinstockmy

    piano teacher and mentor throughout my time at CCM who has always helped me in all matters

    throughout the yearsand Professor Elizabeth Pridonoff, a most warm and wonderful person

    whose master-classes have inspired me as a musician.

    I want to thank Dover Publications for allowing me to reproduce all twenty-four preludes of

    Chopins Op. 28 as musical examples in this document, as well as Cambridge University Press for

    the permission to include Eigeldingers list of examples.

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    I must signalize the Preludesas most remarkable. I will confess that I expected somethingquite different, carried out in the grand style, like his Etudes. It is almost the contrary here:these are sketches, the beginnings of studies, or, if you will ruins, eagles feathers, all wildly,variegatedly intermingled. But in every piece we find, in his own refined hand, written in

    pearls, This is by Frederic Chopin. We recognize him in his pauses, and by his impetuousrespiration. He is the boldest, the proudest, poet-soul of today. To be sure, the book alsocontains some morbid, feverish, repellent traits. But let everyone look in it for somethingthat will enchant him. Philistines, however, must keep away.

    Robert Schumann (1839)

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    ABSTRACT iii



    LIST OF TABLES . xii

    INTRODUCTION............................ 1Chopin as a Revolutionary 2

    Document Organization 3Literature on The Prludes.... 4

    CHAPTER 1: ORIGINS OF THE PRLUDES, OP. 28..... 9Dates of Composition.. ........................... 9Majorca: October 1838January 1839..... 10

    CHAPTER 2: HISTORY OF PRELUDES PRIOR TO CHOPIN. 15Origins and Early Development. 15Preludes during the Baroque.. 18Preludes during the Classical Era... 21Revival of Preludes in the Nineteenth Century.. 24


    Chopin and the Baroque. 27Contemporaneous Sets of Preludes 32Chopins Prludesin Comparison to Contemporaneous Sets of Preludes... . 36

    CHAPTER 4: NOTION OF COHERENCE IN OPUS 28. 39General Coherence Elements.. 39Chominskis Large-Scale Plan... 43Eigeldingers Motivic Recurrences 46Anselm Gerhards Philosophical Idea..... 54Summary. 58

    CHAPTER 5: MOTIONS BETWEEN THE FIFTH AND SIXTH SCALE DEGREES IN THETHE PRLUDES.............................................................................................................. 59

    Scalar Motion as Melodic Idea... 59Motion Between Fifth and Sixth Scale Degree as Motivic Seed... 61

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    Alternation Between Major and Minor Sixth Scale Degrees. 65Alternation between the Two Scale Degrees to form an Underlying Structure. 67Motion of Fifth and Sixth Scale Degrees Highlighted byMarcatoAccents. 69Motion Between the Two Scale Degrees at Climactic Moments .. 71Summary. 73


    BIBLIOGRAPHY.......... 77

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    Fig. 3.1 Prelude No. 20 in C minor, mm. 58................................................................................... 28

    Fig. 3.2 Prelude No. 18 in F minor, mm. 913................................................................................. 29

    Fig. 3.3 Prelude No. 1 in C Major, mm. 16. ................................................................................... 31

    Fig. 4.1 Prelude No. 1 in C Major, mm.2833. The soprano ends on E4......................................... 40

    Fig. 4.2 Prelude No. 2 in A minor, mm. 14. E4 resounds in the right hand. .................................. 40

    Fig. 4.3. Chominskis list of motives................................................................................................ 45

    Fig. 4.4 EigeldingersX motive. ....................................................................................................... 47Fig. 4.5 Eigeldingers Ymotive. ....................................................................................................... 47

    Fig. 4.6 Eigeldingers list ofXand Ymotives in the Prludes. ........................................................ 48

    Fig. 4.7 Prelude No. 15 in DbMajor, mm. 59. The dominant pedal Ab3 in the left hand createsharmonic instability. ......................................................................................................................... 55

    Fig. 4.8 Prelude No. 1 in C Major, mm 13. Opening movement from G3 to A3. .......................... 56

    Fig. 4.9 Prelude No. 1 in C Major, mm. 2834. Closing Statement from A3 to G3. ....................... 56

    Fig. 4.10 Prelude No. 20 in C minor, m. 1. Beginning (G4Ab4) and ending (Ab4G4) takes placein the same measure. ......................................................................................................................... 56

    Fig. 4.11 Prelude No. 7 in A Major, mm. 14. ................................................................................. 57

    Fig. 5.1 Prelude No. 4 in E minor, mm. 13..................................................................................... 59

    Fig. 5.2 Prelude No. 9 in E Major, mm. 12..................................................................................... 60

    Fig. 5.3 Prelude No. 11 in B Major, mm. 15. ................................................................................. 60

    Fig. 5.4 Prelude No. 20 in C Minor, m.1. ......................................................................................... 61

    Fig. 5.5 Prelude No. 1 in C Major, mm. 13. ................................................................................... 61

    Fig. 5.6 Prelude No. 1 in C Major, mm. 2834. ............................................................................... 62

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    Fig. 5.7 Prelude No. 3 in G Major, mm. 12. ................................................................................... 62

    Fig. 5.8 Prelude No. 3 in G Major, mm. 35. ................................................................................... 62

    Fig. 5.9 Prelude No. 8 in F#minor, mm. 12.................................................................................... 63

    Fig. 5.10 Prelude No. 10 in C#minor, mm. 12. .............................................................................. 63

    Fig. 5.11 Prelude No. 14 in Ebminor, mm. 13. .............................................................................. 64

    Fig. 5.12 Prelude No. 18 in F minor, mm. 12................................................................................. 64

    Fig. 5.13 Prelude No. 22 in G minor, mm. 14. ............................................................................... 64

    Fig. 5.14 Prelude No. 23 in F Major, mm. 12................................................................................. 65

    Fig. 5.15 Prelude No. 2 in A minor, mm. 56 and mm. 201. ......................................................... 65Fig. 5.16 Prelude No. 5 in D Major, mm. 14. ................................................................................. 66

    Fig. 5.17 Prelude No. 5 in D Major, mm. 329. ............................................................................... 66

    Fig. 5.18 Prelude No. 19 in EbMajor, mm. 4861. .......................................................................... 66

    Fig. 5.20 Prelude No. 15 in DbMajor, mm. 12............................................................................... 68

    Fig. 5.21 Prelude No. 7 in A Major, mm. 110. ............................................................................... 69

    Fig. 5.22 Prelude No. 17 in AbMajor, mm. 67............................................................................... 70

    Fig. 5.23 Prelude No. 21 in F Major, mm 3940.............................................................................. 70

    Fig. 5.24 Prelude No. 6 in B minor, mm. 18. ................................................................................. 71

    Fig. 5.25 Prelude No. 13 in F#Major, mm. 1823. .......................................................................... 71

    Fig. 5.26 Prelude No. 12 in G#minor, mm. 7081. .......................................................................... 72

    Fig. 5.27 Prelude No. 24 in D minor, mm. 7277. ........................................................................... 73

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    1.1 Compositional dates of Chopins Prludes. 10

    3.1 Publications of preludes in the early nineteenth century..... 33

    4.1 All Instances of resounding tones between two successive preludes... 41

    4.2 Chominskis large-scale outline of the Prludes... 43

    4.3 Central core of Op. 28... 44^ ^

    5.1 Type of 56 Motion... 74

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    The 24 Prludes, Op. 28 are the most discussed and, yet, most controversial work of

    Frederic Chopin.1Since they were published in 1839, these unusual pieces have attracted the

    attention of pianists, composers, and music scholars. Robert Schumann expressed his surprise

    and admiration in his famous review published in the same year as the Prludes,2and in 1888,

    James Huneker wrote, The Prludesalone would make Chopins claim to immortality.3The

    Prludes influence on subsequent composers was tremendous. In theNew Grove Dictionary of

    Music and Musicians, Howard Ferguson writes, Typical of the Romantic period and its

    aftermath, however, are the many independent preludes for piano, whose prototype was Chopinsmatchless set of 24 Prludesof 18369. [Chopin] seems to have established the prelude as

    an important kind of non-programmatic characteristic piece subsequently exploited by such

    composers as Skryabin, Szymanowski, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Kabalevsky, Antheil, Gershwin,

    Messiaen, Ginastera, Scelsi and Martin.4The Prludesinfluence continued throughout the

    twentieth century. In 1974 Maurice Ohana composed a set of twenty-four preludes in which the

    last piece ends with the three low Ds, an homage to Chopins set of preludes that ends in the

    same manner.

    1Chopin published his set of twenty-four preludes as 24 Prludes pour le piano. With respect to his

    intentions, I will maintain the French spelling when referring to the set as a whole. When discussing the general term,works in this genre by other composers, or individual preludes by Chopin I will use the English spelling.

    2Robert Schumann,Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik(November 1839): 163, quoted in Jean-Jaques Eigeldinger,Chopin Prludes, Op. 28, Op. 45(London: C. F. Peters, 2003), 91.

    3James Huneker,Mezzotints in Modern Music, 2ded. (New York: n.p. 1899), 1712, quoted in ibid., 93.

    4Howard Ferguson, Prelude, in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed., ed. StanleySadie and John Tyrell, 20: 293.

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    Chopin as a Revolutionary

    Chopin was a revolutionary for his time. His musical style reveals a progressiveness and

    a desire to move into a new direction. His music was a forerunner of what is now termed

    extended chromaticism. As a result, his harmonic language must have sounded new and

    bewildering to contemporaneous audiences. Chromaticism as found in Chopins works became

    more common during the second half of the nineteenth century. In the early nineteenth century,

    his musical language was remarkable. Eugene Narmour writes:

    Chopins importance in the development of tonal harmony has received wide acclaim inthe field of musicology. His bifocal use of seventh chords, his local and remote mixtures

    of modal and chromatic harmony, his rapid, tonicising chromatic sequences, his planningof unresolved seventh chords, his extended pedal points creating a sense of harmonicstasis, his non-cadential endings, his vague tonal beginnings, his modulations to remotekeys, his occasional experiments in non-tonality all these have captured the attention ofscholars.5

    From all of Chopins works, the Prludes, Op. 28 are particularly innovative and

    revolutionary. Although there have been preludes for keyboard for centuries, Chopins

    contribution to this genre is distinct from both previous and contemporaneous preludes. His

    Prludesstand out because they are pieces composed in an entirely new manner. They are

    neither introductory pieces to fugues nor etude-like exercises as found in other sets of the time by

    Hummel, Kalkbrenner, and Kramer. Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger writes, Chopins twenty-four

    Preludes Op. 28 (1839) mark a significant break in the long history of the genre, for with this

    collection the hitherto utilitarian prelude became essentially autonomous.6

    5Eugene Narmour, Melodic Structuring of Harmonic Dissonance: A Method for Analyzing ChopinsContribution to the Development of Harmony, in Chopin Studies, ed. Jim Samson (Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press, 1988), 77.

    6Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger, preface to Prludes Op. 28by Frdric Chopin (London: Edition Peters, 2000),vi.

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    Chopins Prludes are unusual in their brevity and the lack of traditional form (in many

    of them), but also in terms of the striking variety of musical styles, ranging from mazurka-like

    dances, to etude-like pieces, to lyrical song-forms. They are short emotional statements,

    organized into all major and minor keys and published under one opus number. Chopin

    employed the old genre of the prelude as a vehicle for intense emotional expression. In keyboard

    literature, preludes had existed as improvisatory and introductory pieces since the fifteenth

    century. But Chopins set is the first instance of preludes that stand out as a set of character

    pieces. Because the Prludesdo not fit into any contemporaneous category, they were unique in

    music history.

    Document Organization

    No document on a musical workis complete without containing a note on its origins; and

    in this case, it is also indispensable to discuss the composers letters from that time, for they

    provide insights into the compositional progress of Op. 28. Therefore, the first chapter of this

    document focuses on the origins of the Prludes. To appreciate that Chopins set of preludes was

    unique and new, it is necessary to briefly trace the history of the prelude genre. Only if one

    places Chopins set into its historical context can the newness and revolutionary aspects of his

    Prludesbecome clear. Thus, the second chapter consists of a concise summary of the history of

    the prelude genre. Those preludes contemporaneous to Chopins work, the sets by Muzio

    Clementi, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, and Friedrich Kalkbrenner, will be discussed in the

    following chapter. In the fourth chapter of this document, I discuss the idea of coherence in

    Chopins Op. 28 as theorized by Jeffrey Kresky, Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger, Anselm Gerhard, and

    Jsef M. Chominski. All four scholars have identified features within the Prludes that

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    contribute to an overall coherence. Finally, the fifth chapter proposes my own theory about the

    unifying principle of Chopins Prludes. During my research I found that two scale degrees, the

    fifth and the sixth, are of special importance to all pieces in the set. Repeated movements

    between these two scale degrees appear in the melody, as ostinato patterns, and opening motives

    from which the material of the piece is derived. The repetition of these two scale degrees unifies

    the set.

    Literature on The Prludes

    There are several doctoral documents on Chopins Prludes. In her thesis Non-Harmonic Tonesas Aesthetic Elements in Chopins Preludes, Op. 28, Yangkyung Lee has grouped the non-

    harmonic tones of the Prludes into five categories: harmonic color, motivic integration,

    temporality, continuity between phrases, and inventive accompanimental patterns.7Out of the

    twenty-four preludes she has selected those fourteen, that include non-harmonic tones most

    prominently in their musical language: No. 2 in A minor, No. 5 in D Major, No. 8 in F#minor,

    No. 10 in C#minor, No. 11 in B Major, No. 12 in G#minor, No. 13 in F#Major, No. 14 in Eb

    minor, No. 17 in AbMajor, No. 18 in F minor, No. 19 in EbMajor, No. 20 in C minor, No. 21 in

    B-flat Major, and No. 22 in G minor. She has grouped these fourteen preludes according to three

    types of non-harmonic tones, neighbor tones, suspensions, and anticipations. She concludes that

    the role of non-harmonic tones in Chopins Op. 28 can be summarized as harmonic color,

    motivic integration, temporality, continuity between phrases, and inventive accompanimental

    patterns. Her thesis is an attempt to reveal the unique compositional qualities in the Prludes

    based their non-harmonic tones.

    7Yangkyung Lee, Non-Harmonic Tones as Aesthetic Elements in Chopins Preludes, Op. 28 (D.M.A.thesis, University of Cincinnati, 2002).

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    Yunjoo Kang, in her dissertation, The Chopin Preludes Opus 28: An Eclectic Analysis

    with Performance Guide,8attempts to uncover compositional techniques and performance

    practice. Her study is based on a detailed analysis of four selected preludes: No. 15 in DbMajor,

    No. 16 in Bbminor, No. 17 in Abmajor, and No. 22 in G minor. She uses the so-called eclectic

    analysis, an approach that functions on different analytical levels. This method is sensitive to the

    different ways on how the music is experienced. Kang provides a conventional analysis of syntax,

    a descriptive phenomenological analysis of sound-in-time, and a hermeneutic phenomenological

    analysis of musical references. In addition, she explains musical syntax with a Schenkerian

    approach.In 1987 David Bunker Schwarz wrote a theoretical dissertation entitled Structuralism,

    Post-Structuralism, and a Classical Musical Text: A New Look at Chopins Preludes, Opus 28.

    He discusses the cross-reference between a selected number of preludes with an emphasis upon

    one parameter of the music such as pitch, texture, and register.9He considers all available tools

    of musical analysis as so-called codes, which may be used in a variety of combinations. While he

    applies his system of codes to Prelude No. 1 in C Major, he discusses cross-references with an

    emphasis upon one parameter of the music such as pitch, texture, register to Preludes No. 2 in A

    minor, No. 4 in E minor, No. 6 in B minor, No. 8 in F#minor, No. 9 in E Major, No. 12 in G#

    minor, and No. 19 in EbMajor. Following that he analyses Prelude No. 21 in BbMajor using

    Schenkerian sketches. In the conclusion he explains how the cross-referential codes might be

    extended to form the basis of a theory of music perception.

    8Yunjoo Kang, The Chopin Preludes Opus 28: An Eclectic Analysis with Performance Guide (Ph.D.diss., New York University, 1994).

    9David Bunker Schwarz, Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, and a Classical Musical Text: A New Look atChopins Preludes, Opus 28 (Ph.D. diss., The University of Texas, Austin, 1987).

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    Allen Dorfman in his dissertation focused on ratio relations within individual preludes as

    well as with regard to the entire set.10He applies his method for the interpretation of musical

    form in all twenty-four preludes. His diagrams represent the structure and shape of each prelude

    as well as the opening periods of twelve selected preludes. Based upon the resulting thirty-six

    forms he concludes in his study that structural divisions tend to occur within the ranges of .19

    .33, .44.55, and .69.84, proportionate to the whole, while points of climax generally occur

    within the range .56.67.

    Besides other useful references such as theDie Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, The

    New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Chopins Musical Styleby Gerald Abraham, andChopin Studiesedited by Jim Samson, there are, of course, Chopins letters. I have consulted

    three different editions, including the complete letters in the original French,11and two English

    translations, one from 1931,12the other from 1963.13I have examined the articles Autour des

    Prludes de Chopin (Concerning the Chopin preludes),14Chopin et lhritage baroque

    (Chopin and the heritage of the Baroque),15Le prlude de la goutte deau de Chopin (The

    10Allen Arthur Dorfman, A Theory of Form and Proportion in Music (Ph.D. diss., University ofCalifornia, Los Angeles, 1986).

    11Fryderick Chopin, Correspondence de: dition dfinitive(The correspondence of Frdric Chopin: Thedefinitive edition), Vol. IIII, ed. and trans. Bronislav douard Sydow, Suzanne, and Denise Chainaye (Paris: LaRevue Musicale, 1981).

    12Fryderick Chopin, Chopins Letters, coll. and ed. by Henryk Opieski (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1931).

    13Fryderick Chopin, Selected Correspondence of Fryderyk Chopin, ed. and trans. Arthur Hedley (NewYork: Da Capo Press, 1963).

    14Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger, Autour des Prludes de Chopin (Concerning the Chopin Preludes),RevueMusicale de Suisse Romande25 (1972): 37.

    15Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger, Chopin et lhritage baroque (Chopin and the heritage of the Baroque),Schweizer Beitrge zur Musikwissenschaft2 (1974): 5174.

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    raindrop prelude by Chopin)16by the renowned Swiss musicologist Jean-Jaques Eigeldinger,

    and Chopins Preludes und Etudes und Bachs Wohltemperiertes Klavier (Chopins preludes

    and etudes and Bachs Well-Tempered Clavier) by Walter Wiora,17who proposes that Chopin

    had originally intended the Prludesas introductory pieces to his twenty-four etudes, resembling

    the traditional prelude and fugue couplingan interesting theory, however, mostly based on


    The most essential sources for this document, however, are those written by the four

    scholars who have explored the topic of cyclic coherence: Jeffrey Kresky,18Jean-Jacques



    Anselm Gerhard,


    and Jsef M. Chominski.


    All four authors believe that thePrludesare not merely twenty-four miniatures, but, instead, form a unified set.

    An extended research of these sources as well as an analysis of the Prludes has led me

    to the conclusion that Chopins Op. 28 is a unified composition that stands as something unique

    in history. Chopin has looked back to one of the most popular genres in keyboard literature, the

    16Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger, Le prlude de la goutte deau de Chopin (The Raindrop Prelude byChopin),Revue de Musicologie SocitFranaise de Musicologie61 (1975): 7090.

    17Walter Wiora, Chopins Preludes und Etudes und Bachs Wohltemperiertes Klavier (Chopins preludesand etudes and Bachs Well-Tempered Clavier),Historische und Systematische Musikwissenschaft, ed. HellmutKhn and Christoph-Hellmut Mahling (Mnchen: Hans Schneider Tutzing, 1972), 32335.

    18Jeffrey Kresky,A Readers Guide to the Chopin Preludes(London: Greenwood Press, 1994).

    19Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger, Twenty-four Preludes Op. 28: Genre, Structure, Significance, in ChopinStudies, ed. Jim Samson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 16793.

    20Anselm Gerhard, Reflexionen ber den Beginn der Musik. Eine neue Deutung von Frdric Chopins

    Prludes op. 28 (Reflections on the beginning of music: A new interpretation of Frdric Chopins Prludes op.28), inDeutsche Musik im Wegkreuz zwischen Polen und Frankreich (German music as an intersection betweenPoland and France), ed. Christoph-Hellmut Mahling and Kristina Pfarr (Eurasburg: Hans Schneider Tutzing, 1996),99112.

    21Jsef M. Chominski, Preludia Chopina(Chopins preludes) (Krakw: PWM, 1950). This article is notavailable in English but its essence has been summarized in Janet Marie Lopinski, The Preludes Opus 28 byFryderyk Chopin with Emphasis on Polish Sources (D.M.A. thesis, University of Cincinnati, 1990).

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    prelude, and transformed it into a nineteenth-century cyclic composition. He did not give

    descriptive titles or other hints to the pieces (as often found in Robert Schumanns cycles), but

    instead he unified the preludes on a more subtle level, as I will show in the final chapter of this

    document. For these reasons the Prludesare a milestone in piano literature.

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    Date of Composition

    There is uncertainty to the exact origins of the Preludes. While most scholars suggest that

    Chopin composed some, if not most pieces of Op. 28, during his stay in Majorca during the

    winter of 18389, there is little evidence to support this idea. The composers previous work is

    the two Nocturnes, Op. 27, written in Autumn 1835, and published in May 1836, while the

    Preludes successor, is the Impromptu in A


    Major, Op. 29, published in 1837 in Paris andLondon.22By the time Chopin published the Prludes, Op. 28, in June 1839, his compositional

    output had already reached the opus number 34. Based on these facts, it is almost certain that

    Chopin had at least started to think about composing the Preludesin 1836after the publication

    of the Nocturnes, Op. 27and had spent a long time writing the preludes, most likely from

    183539. Because the compositional process took several years, the opus number 28 remained

    open, while he moved on with other compositions. However, it is incorrect to assume that it was

    of particular importance to Chopin that his Prludeswould receive the number 28, for he

    confessed in a letter to Pleyel on 17 March 1839 that he could not remember the opus number

    reserved for the twenty-four Preludes.23Maurice J. E. Brown has attempted to reconstruct the

    compositional history of the Prludes. Based on an evaluation of all available facts and logical

    22Kornel Michalowski and Jim Samson, Chopin, Fryderyk Franciszek, in The New Grove Dictionary ofMusic and Musicians, 2d ed., ed. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell, 5: 728.

    23Maurice J. E. Brown, The Chronology of Chopins Preludes,Musical Times98 (1957): 424.

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    assumptions, he has compiled a list of possible composition dates with only six preludes (marked

    with an asterix in Table 1.1) whose actual date can be assigned with certainty.24

    Table 1.1 Compositional dates of Chopins Prludes.

    1836 1837 Autumn1835

    October 1838


    January 1839

    at Majorca



    7* 17*, 203, 5, 6, 8, 9,

    11, 12, 13, 14,15, 16, 18, 19,

    22, 23, 24

    1, 2*, 4*, 10*,21*

    .Table 1.1 shows that the vast majority of preludes were most likely composed between 1835 and

    1838. While the popular assumption that most pieces were composed during Chopins stay in

    Majorca is still possible, there is only certainty for only four out of the twenty-four preludes, Nos.

    2, 4, 10, and 21. It is certain, however, that Chopin spent more time on the Prludesthan on his

    other worksfour years at the leastand that some of them were composed during his stay in

    Majorca. Everything else about the Prludes origins remains speculative.

    Majorca: October 1838January 1839

    Chopins stay in Majorca with George Sand has been often mentioned and romanticized

    when in reality it was an extremely difficult, if not disastrous trip. At their first meeting, in

    autumn 1837, Sand left a terrible impression on Chopin,25but when they met again in April 1838,

    their love was almost kindled almost instantly, and by early June of the same year the pair

    were lovers.


    Only four months later, in October 1838, they found themselves on the


    25Michalowski and Samson, 709. Chopin wrote, What an unattractive person La Sand is. Is she really awoman?


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    Mediterranean island of Majorca, with Sands two children, partly to escape the difficulties

    posed by her former lover Flicien Mallefille.27It was not only Chopins intention to finish the

    remaining preludes during this stay but he even paid for this vacation by selling his Prludesin

    advance to the Paris publisher Camille Pleyel in October.28At the beginning of the vacation,

    Chopin was thrilled with the wonderful island. On 19 November he wrote to Julian Fontana from

    Palma in Majorca:

    A sky like turquoise, a sea like lapis lazuli; mountains like emerald, air like heaven. Sunall day, and hot; everyone in summer clothing; at night guitars and singing for hours.Huge balconies with grape-vines overhead; Moorish walls. Everything looks towardsAfrica, as the town does. In short, a glorious life. Go to Pleyel; the piano has not yet

    come. How was it sent? You will soon receive some Prludes. I shall probably lodge in awonderful monastery, the most beautiful situation in the world; sea, mountains,palms.Ah, my dear, I am coming alive a little.29

    This letter shows that Chopin enjoyed the Mediterranean setting and the warm

    temperatures. He awaited the piano and was confident he would be able finish the

    Prludesin no time. This was only the beginning, however. About two weeks later, he

    gives a frightening picture of himself. On 3 December 1838 he wrote again to Fontana:

    I cant send you the manuscript [of the Prludes], for it is not finished. I have been sickas a dog these last two weeks; I caught a cold in spite of 18 degrees of heat, roses,oranges, palms, figs and three most famous doctors of the island. One sniffed at what Ispat up, the second tapped where I spat it from, the third poked about and listened how Ispat it. One said I had died, the second that I am dying, and the third that I shall die.30

    The letter shows that Chopins health condition had worsened, and the change in climate and

    scenery had given him an upswing that lasted for only a few days. Besides the devastating health


    28Brown, 423.

    29Frederic Chopin, Chopins Letters, trans. and ed. E. L. Voynich (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1931), 185.

    30Ibid., 186.

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    situation, the piano had not arrived yet, and therefore, his capability to work was very limited.

    Despite these circumstances, he remained ambitious, for he worked on the Scherzo in C #minor,

    the Mazurka in E minor, the Ballade in F Major, and the Polonaise in C minor. The following

    letter shows his continued threatening physical problems but also a spirit of hope and his

    confidence in finishing the Prludesas well as the Ballade. Less than two weeks after his visit

    with the three doctors, he wrote to Fontana on 14 December 1838:

    Meanwhile my manuscripts sleep, but I cant sleep; only cough and covered withpoultices for a long time past, wait for the spring or for something else. Tomorrow I go tothat wonderful monastery of Valldemosa, to write in the cell of some old monk, whoperhaps had more fire in his soul than II think I shall soon send you my Prludesand a



    Two weeks later, Chopin seemed to be still full of hope, but again, without compositional results.

    On 28 December 1838, he wrote to Fontana, I cant send you the Prludes, for they are not

    finished: I feel better and will hurry up.32

    After the move to the Carthusian monastery in Valldemosainto which Chopin had put

    so much hopethings deteriorated, however, and the entire stay in Majorcaoriginally intended

    as a recreational vacationturned into an extremely difficult time. In The New Grove Dictionary

    of Music and MusiciansKornel Michaowski and Jim Samson write:

    [The stay in Majorca] was an ill-considered venture, during which Chopins healthdeteriorated rapidly. For most of the time their rooms were in an old Carthusianmonastery at Valldemosa, a few hours journey from Palma, and it was accommodationwhich was quite unable to withstand the harsh Majorcan winter.The locals treated thegroup [Chopin, and George Sand her two children] with the utmost suspicion and werereluctant even to sell them basic provisions.By late January Chopins illness hadreached a shocking state, and the party was obliged to leave the island.33

    31Ibid., 1878.

    32Frederic Chopin, Selected Correspondence of Frederic Chopin, trans. and ed. Arthur Hedley (New York:Da Capo Press, 1963), 166.

    33Michalowski and Samson, 709.

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    As Brown has shown, only four preludes can be attributed with certainty to Chopins stay

    in Majorca (see Table 1.1).34Even the famous anecdote about Chopin composing the so-

    called Raindrop Prelude inspired by a storm on the island is almost certainly a myth.

    Brown writes:

    It is necessary, of course, to consider the very well known anecdote of the rainstorm atValldemosa which occurred during the soujourn in Majorca, described in after-years withsuch a vivid and poetical pen by George Sand, and also by Franz Liszt. The storm wassupposed to be described by Chopin too: a musical description, to be found in his PreludeNo. 15 in DbMajor. The assertion is, in my view baseless. We have here, without doubt aremarkable instanceof the aetiological legend. The repeated pedal note Ab(=G# later)in the fifteenth Prelude inspired a nicknameit was called the Raindrop Prelude. Withthe establishment of that nickname, a cause was sought for it outside the suggestion

    implicit in the musical material itself. Hence George Sands flowery story.Liszt takesover the rainstorm story, but applies it, not to the Raindrop Prelude at all, but to No. 8,in F#minor.35

    However, even though facts about Majorca and the Prludes are insufficient andas the

    Raindrop Prelude anecdote showsexist often only behind the veil of Romanticized allusions,

    Chopin finished composing the Prludes on the island as the following letter demonstrates. The

    set as a whole was ready on 22 January of 1839 when Chopin wrote to Fontana:

    My dear friend, I am sending you the Prludes. Copy them out, you and Wolff. I dontthink there are any mistakes. You should give the copy to Probst and my manuscript toPleyelIn a week or two you will receive the Ballade, Polonaises and Scherzo. TellPleyel to settle with Probst about the date of publication of the Prludes.Hand over myletter and the Prludesto Pleyel yourself.36

    In his letters from November and December Chopin had implied his intentions and worries in

    finishing the Prludes, while on January 22, he mentions the completion of the set. Therefore,

    his stay on the island is directly linked to the Prludes. Despite his serious health condition, the

    34Brown, 424.

    35Ibid., 423.

    36Chopin, Selected Correspondence of Frederic Chopin, 167.

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    delayed arrival of the piano, and the uncomfortable accommodations at the monastery, Chopin

    had managed to finish his greatest work to that point, the Prludes. This must have elevated his

    state of mind, so that he wrote yet another letter on the same day to Camille Pleyel in Paris,

    spreading the good news about his compositional results. In this letter he is discusses business

    matters in detail:

    Dear friend, I am sending you my Prludes. I finished them on your cottage piano whicharrived in perfect condition in spite of the sea crossing, the bad weather and the Palmacustoms. I have instructed Fontana to hand over my manuscript. I am asking 1,500 francsfor the French and English rights. Probst, as you know, has bought the German rights forBreitkopf for 1,000. I am no longer under contract to Wessel in London so he can paymore.

    Chopin published his Prludes first in Paris, in June 1839, for Pleyel by Adolphe Catelin

    Co.without opus number37and entitled simply 24 Prludes pour le piano.38In this

    publication, the preludes were split for purely commercial reasons into two volumes: nos. 112

    and 1324.39Breitkopf & Hrtel published the Prludes in Germany in the same month as one

    set, under the opus number 28.40The omission of the opus number in the first publicationdue

    to the fact that Chopin had forgotten which number had been reserved for the

    setcontinued in England in 1840 when Wessel published the set without it and in France until

    as late as 1860.41

    37Brown, 424.


    William Sobaskie, Precursive Prolongation in the Prludesof Chopin,Journal of the Society ofMusicology in Ireland 3 (20078): 25.

    39Jean-Jaques Eigeldinger, Twenty-Four Preludes Op. 28: Genre, Structure, Significance, in ChopinStudies, ed. Jim Samson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 167.

    40Brown, 424.


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    Origins and Early Development

    In its original meaning, the term prelude indicates a piece that preceded other music

    whose mode or key it was designated to introduce.42In German the term exists as a verb as well.

    Praeludieren (lit.: to prelude) means to improvise or play an introduction to something. The sole

    purpose of the Praeludieren-practice was to establish the key or mode for the succeeding work

    or composition, to introduce vocal music at church, to ask for the listeners attention in a musicalway, to check the tuning of the instrument, or to loosen the fingers and warm up. By the

    sixteenth century, this technique of preluding had became a standard practice, and all keyboard

    performers were expected to be able to prelude for church services as well as secular concerts.

    Because the prelude is in its very essence an improvisation, the surviving notated examples can

    only give a sample of this genre, which had became essential to all keyboardists by the mid

    sixteenth century. Musicians wrote down preludes only occasionally, either to be used again at a

    later time or for pedagogical use. David Ledbetter writes, The purpose of notating

    improvisation was generally to provide models for students, so an instructive intention, often

    concerned with a particular aspect of instrumental technique, remained an important part of the


    42David Ledbetter, Prelude, in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed., ed. StanleySadie and John Tyrell, 20: 291.

    43Ibid., 20: 2912.

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    The general practice ofpreludingis far older than any written manuscripts and goes back

    to the performance of epic dramas in the ancient orient.44In Western music preludes have been

    an integral part of keyboard music since the very beginning as introductory or improvisatory

    pieces. The earliest surviving examples are five short preludes for keyboard in Adam Ileborghs

    tablature from 1448.45Ileborgh uses both terms Praeambula and Praeludia. From about the

    same time date the keyboard preludes of Wolfgang de Nova Domo found in bonum

    fundamentum.46The German musicologist Arnfried Edler points out that these early examples

    border between written-out improvisation and composition. According to him, the pieces found

    inIlebourghs collectioncalledpraeludia diversarum notarum (variously notated preludes)could be used on five different tones. That means, they are written-out examples of introductions

    to be used or recycled on various tones. Other sources include preludes for use in only one

    particular mode. For instance, at the end of Fundamentum organisandi,there are three preludes

    that can be used only in one particular mode and for one main purpose, the intention of

    practicing ascending and descending tenor motions.47These preludes most likely functioned as

    introductory warm-up exercises for succeeding compositions. In the so-calledBuxheimer

    Orgelbuch(ca. 1470) there are many preludes distinguished by completely different sections

    contrasting with one another.48Two types of textures can be identified in early keyboard

    preludes: simple sustained chords and florid passages.49

    44Arnfried Edler, Prludium, inDie Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart,2d ed., ed. Friedrich Blume

    and Ludwig Finscher,Sachteil 7: 1793.45Ledbetter, 292.

    46Edler, 1793.



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    During the sixteenth century, the improvisatory character of the prelude gave way to a

    more rigid structure, often with sequential patterns, imitation, and passages of antiphony between

    voices. Early sixteenth-century examples include the preludes of H. Kotter, a composer from

    south-west Germany. The pieces in his tablatures (ca. 1513) represent Renaissance trends in two

    waysseeking inspiration from the ancient Classics and providing music for an increasing

    bourgeoisfor his preludes bear Greek and Latin titles such asAnabol,Harmonia, and

    Prooemium, and are intended for use at home on a clavichord.50Kotters preludes begin to show

    sections of light imitation with passages of antiphony between voices.51This foreshadows the

    sectional organ praeludia of the Baroque with their alternating sections.It is impossible and pointless to try to draw a line between preludes and contemporaneous

    improvisatory pieces that bear other titles. Because a prelude was originally an improvised

    introduction, it could include different musical styles, and thus, was not tied to a particular form

    or texture. A virtuosic and brilliant prelude, for instance, might have been called a toccata, while

    a piece distinguished by imitation might have been titled ricercare. Ledbetter writes, From the

    later sixteenth century the term praeludium and its cognates were not commonly used in southern

    Germany, nor in Italy and Spain, where prelude-type pieces generally bore other titles

    (Intonazione,Intrada,Ricercare, Toccata).52

    49Ledbetter, 292. This is based on Paumans instructional Fundamentum organisandi(1452) and theBuxheimer Orgelbuch(ca. 1470).

    50Edler, 1794.

    51Ledbetter, 292.


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    Preludes during the Baroque

    The development of seventeenth-century preludes was distinguished by the instruments

    for which they were written. While improvisatory keyboard pieces continued to be written in the

    south by composers like Frescobaldi, Froberger, and Kapsberger, two main types of preludes

    emerged in the north: the organ praeludia in Northern Germany and the unmeasured preludes for

    lute or harpsichord in France. The German large-scalepraeludium pedaliter originated with the

    works of Scheidemann, Tunder, and Weckmann. Their works were distinguished by sectional

    contrasts between free improvisatory and strict fugal sections. This development saw its climax

    in the works of Buxtehude (ca. 16371707) who worked as organist and Werckmeister in Lbeckfrom 16681707. His multi-sectional praeludia make full use of the organ, especially the pedals,

    and are highly virtuosic. These pieces represent the North German stylus phantasticus, a style

    that displays great virtuosity and juxtaposes free improvisation with careful planning.53With

    Buxtehude, the truly virtuosic, figurative, complex, and highly imaginative organ music with an

    extreme use of pedals developed to an unprecedented level. His organ preludes are of

    considerable length, complicated in structure, and at times very chromatic. Typically, there are

    free improvisatory sections with toccata-like figurations alternating with contrapuntal ones. The

    number of sections and overall structure vary, and it is hard to put them into one category. The

    general structure can be outlined as follows:

    Opening Improvisatory Section (I)First Fugue (F)Remaining Sections

    53Kerala J. Snyder, Buxtehude, in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed., ed.Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell, 4:700. In 1650 Athanasius Kircher described the stylus phantasticus.He writes,Thefantastic style is suitable for instruments. It is the most free and unrestrained method of composing; it is bound tonothing, neither to words nor to a melodic subject; it was instituted to display genius and to teach the hidden designof harmony and the ingenious composition of harmonic phrases and fugues.

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    Many pieces have the following sequence, IFIFI, but IFIF, and even IFF

    I preludes can be found. Generally, a distinction can be made between the pieces ending in a

    fugal section (IFF), and the ones ending with the improvisatory one (IFI).

    England fostered the prelude genre with the works of Henry Purcell and George

    Frederick Handel. Purcell employed long and advanced preludes as found in the fifth suite from

    Musicks Hand-maide, while Handel mainly composed shorter works distinguished by

    figurations such as scale-passages and arpeggios. Seventeenth-century France saw the emergence

    of a very distinctive prelude type, the so-called unmeasured prelude. This prelude is

    distinguished by a lack of rhythmic notation leaving the execution of rhythm to the performer.This unusual type of prelude has been linked to two origins. The unmeasured prelude might have

    emerged from an increasingly elaborated tuning practice for the lute, for, in concerts, lutenists

    tuned before beginning to play. During this tuning process they might have tried out the

    instrument, playing scales and other figurations. It is very likely that this tuning process became

    gradually more elaborate and resulted in improvising a prelude-type introduction. Ledbetter

    suggests that there is a second, and more recent, explanation for the emergence of the

    unmeasured prelude.54This theory is based on the fact that since about 1620, there was a

    rhythmic loosening in French preludes in general. In that case, preludes became rhythmically

    freer and looser until composers responded to this trend with an unmeasured notation. This genre

    was fostered by the most important French composers including Jacques Champion de

    Chambonires, Denis Gaultier, Louis Couperin, Nicolas Antoine Lebegue, and Jean Henri


    54Ledbetter, 292. This is based on the music found in the manuscripts of Lespine and Lord Herbert.

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    Since the the earliest examples of written out non-measured preludes for lute, dating from

    about 1630,55the genre became popular in French music and lasted for about seventy years. In

    some of these preludes there are two free and unmeasured sections framing a middle section in

    strict rhythm.56The notation of unmeasured preludes is distinguished by a succession of slurred

    whole notes. Only a well-trained musician is able to interpret and play these preludes, and today,

    there are few pianists who know how to interpret these freely written scores that lack any

    indications of rhythm. Even at the time, playing unmeasured preludes was considered to be

    difficult to understand. Nicolas Lebgue mentions in the introduction to hisLes pices de

    clavicin: la grande difficult de render cette metode de preluder (lit.: the great difficulty toperform this method of preluding).57At the beginning of the eighteenth century, French

    composers returned to writing out preludes in strict rhythm.58The prelude genre continued to

    exist in the form of introductory pieces to begin dance suites.59

    J. S. Bach brought the prelude genre to its apotheosis, both in terms of variety of styles as

    well as in quality. Ledbetter writes, With Bach the prelude reached the pinnacle of its

    development, both in its compositional quality and in its range of styles, manners and formal

    55Davitt Moroney, Prlude non mesur, in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed.,ed. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell, 20:294. He refers to five short unmeasured preludes in the lute manuscript ofVirginia Renata intended for various tunings.

    56Ibid. This is the case in four preludes of Louis Couperins Pices de clavecin.

    57Edler, 1797.

    58Graham Sadler, Rameau, JeanPhilippe, in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed.,ed. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell, 20:787. One of the last unmeasured preludes was published as part of J. P.Rameaus Premier Livre, a collection of dance pieces for harpsichord.

    59The first example of a prelude preceding a solo instrumental dance suite is Chancys Tablature demandorefrom 1629. Throughout the Baroque, preludes were used as introductory pieces to suites. Examples are thedance suites by the French clavicinists, and the English Suites and Partitas by J. S. Bach.

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    prototypes.60Bachs Well-tempered Clavierdemonstrates not only the new tuning systems that

    allowed one to play in all twenty-four keys, but functions as a synthesis of prelude styles. It was

    the most complete catalogue of preludes written up to that point, and according to Ledbetter, the

    first to provide keyboard examples in all 24 keys.61The preludes in Bachs Well-tempered

    Clavierare examples for many compositional prototypes. They range from toccata-like to lyrical

    aria-like pieces, and from pieces covering specific technical problems to large-scale binary forms

    in the second book of the Well-tempered Clavier. With the two volumes of the Well-tempered

    Clavier(1722 and 1742), Bach provided a catalogue of preludes demonstrating the sheer variety

    of styles and forms within the genre. Edler writes, Here [in the Well-tempered Clavier] Bachcreated new types of preludes, which must be explained as synthesized forms of various

    traditions, and which form a catalogue of encyclopedic character.62

    Preludes during the Classical Era

    Preludes continued to be composed after Bachs Well-tempered Clavier. Ledbetter writes

    that particularly Bachs pupils, although not his sons, continued to foster the genre.63However,

    the popularity of preludes as one of the main genres of keyboard literature decreased as they

    gave way to the new forms of the Classical era, especially sonatas and rondos. Having been one

    of the most essential genres of keyboard literature during the Baroque and before, the preludes


    Ibid.61Ibid., 293.

    62Edler, 1800, trans. Andreas Boelcke. Hier bildete Bach neue Typen des Prludiums aus, die alssynthetische Bildungen aus unterschiedlichen Gattungstraditionen zu erklren sind und der Sammlung als ganzereinen enzyklopdischen Charakter verleihen.

    63Ledbetter, 293.

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    status as a popular performance genre changed to that of mere pedagogical exercises. With the

    disappearance of dance suites, preludes as introductory pieces also vanished.64If one looks at the

    output of the three great composers of the Classical eraF. J. Haydn, W. A. Mozart, and

    Beethoventhe last genre coming to ones mind would be preludes. The few examples by

    Mozart include the 4 Preludes in C (K395/300g, also catalogued as KV6:284a) from 1777all

    of which have been lostand the Prelude and Fugue in C, composed after he had been exposed

    to Bachs music by the nobleman Baron Gottfried van Swieten, an enthusiastic collector of the

    music of Bach. In 1976 Editio Musica Budapestpublished a one-page piece by W. A. Mozart,

    entitled Praeludium.


    The lack of both bar lines and meter indication in this piece is reminiscentof an unmeasured prelude. This short Praeludiumis distinguished by ascending broken triads,

    descending sequences, and thirty-second note figurations. It begins in F Major and ends in E

    Major. However, interesting as this discovery may be, it is nothing more but a sketch that Mozart

    might have done when experimenting with the unmeasured prelude tradition.

    In 1789 Beethoven composedZwei Prludien durch alle Dur-Tonarten fr das

    Pianoforte oder die Orgel(Two Preludes through all Major Keys for the Piano or the Organ),

    published under Op. 39. Both preludes begin and end in the key of C, working their way through

    the circle of fifths. Both preludes move quickly through all keys, remaining in some of them for

    only two measures. These written-out warm-up exercisesallowing the student to become

    familiar with all key-signatures within one pieceforeshadow the exercise-like preludes of

    Chopins contemporaries such as Kalkbrenner and Hummel. The few contributions to the

    prelude genre by Mozart and Beethoven show only the prolificacy of the two composers in all

    64Ibid. Pieces introducing sonatas such as those by G. B. Martini and Giuiseppe Sarti were more commonlycalled fantasia.

    65W. A. Mozart, Praeludium, ed. Imre Sulyok(Budapest: Editio Musica Budapest, 1976). This piece hasbeen published as facsimile without a Kchel number.

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    genres of music but do not represent their full compositional capabilities nor account for a

    development of the prelude tradition.

    During the Baroque most preludes had been written for harpsichord or organ, both of

    which decreased in popularity during the eighteenth century. The decline of the church as a main

    patron brought upon a decreased use of the organ, whereas the rise of the fortepiano led to a

    decreased use of the harpsichord. The emergence of new keyboard genressonatas, rondos, sets

    of theme and variations, occasionally fantasias, and piano concertosis, however, due not only

    to the change of instruments but also to the cultural and social changes of the late-eighteenth

    century. The heavy contrapuntal and chromatic textures of the Baroque did not fit with theaesthetics of the style galant,simplicity, lightness, and symmetry. The music in demand had to

    be clearly structured, easy to understand, and transparent in its formal design. Music of the mid

    to late eighteenth century was distinguished by motivic development, contrasting thematic

    groups, and the return of previously stated sections, easy to recognize for the listener. The

    preludingpractice continued only to serve purely practical purposes. In church it was continued

    to introduce the service or the congregational singing. In secular concerts, the need to introduce

    music with improvisations further declined with the increased use of written-out introductions to

    sonatas and symphoniesa development that further edged out any need for thepreluding

    practice. It is certain that Mozart and Beethoven improvised not only cadenzas, variations on

    given themes, and fantasias, but also introductions, thus preludes. But the lack of notated

    examples from the Classical period shows that preludes had lost their place of prominence in

    keyboard literature. Whereas the prelude had been one of the most important keyboard genres

    during the Baroque, it survived merely in form of short improvised introductions to major works,

    not as notated compositions.

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    Revival of Preludes in the Nineteenth Century

    During the nineteenth century, there was a rediscovery and a renewed interest in the

    prelude genre. Ledbetter writes that the 19thcenturys awakening interest in music of earlier

    times encouraged a revival of forms that had fallen into disuse. He continues, The attached

    prelude reappeared in a number of Bach-influenced works, such as Mendelssohns Six Preludes

    and Fugues for piano, Op. 35 (18327), Liszts Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H (1855),

    Brahmss two preludes and fugues for organ (18567), Francks Prlude, choral et fuguefor

    piano (1884), and Regers Prelude and Fugue for violin, Op. 117.66The preludes attached to

    fugues are clearly an homage to Bach and the Baroque era. Although there was a nineteenth-century prelude revival, the number of published preludes seems nevertheless small in

    comparison to the Baroque Era. The few sets of preludes include those by Muzio Clementi

    (1811, rev. 1820), Johann Nepomuk Hummel (181415), Johan Baptist Cramer (1818), and

    Friedrich Kalkbrenner (1827). None of these, however were intended for a performance or the

    concert stage, but were written for pedagogical use.

    In addition to these published examples, however, preludes continued to be improvised. It

    has been suggested only recently by Shane Levesque that the small number of prelude

    publications in relation to other genres in nineteenth-century piano literature should not be

    interpreted as a hint that the prelude genre had diminished in popularity. In his essay Functions

    and Performance Practice of Improvised Nineteenth-Century Preludes, he shows that the

    prelude genre continued as a form of improvisation. He goes even so far to claim that the prelude

    was one of the most widely cultivated keyboard genres of the nineteenth century:67

    66Ledbetter, 293.

    67Shane Levesque, Functions and Performance Practice of Improvised Nineteenth-Century Preludes,Tijdschrift voor Musiektheorie13, no. 1 (2008): 109.

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    down.71Nevertheless, in the early nineteenth century, there were no publications of preludes that

    could compare with Chopins Opus 28. Those preludes published at the time are merely

    technical exercises or notated examples for the instruction on how introduce other pieces. Thus,

    Chopins set of preludes stands as a turning point in the development of the genre. His Opus 28

    became the model for a new type of piece and led to an increase in writing sets of preludes as

    independent concert pieces in the decades to follow. Since its publication in 1839 it has inspired

    and greatly influenced subsequent composers of the nineteenth and twentieth century. Skryabin,

    Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Kabalevsky, and Shostakowitch, all composed sets of twenty-four

    preludes. With Chopins Prludes,the genre became once again one of the most popular andprominent ones in piano literature.

    71Ibid., 109. He writes, Chopin did not compose only twenty-six preludes, but likely improvised hundreds:revising, notating, and publishing his best examples in twenty-four major and minor keys.

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    Chopins set of twenty-four preludes is the link between the Baroque tradition and the

    many piano preludes of the Romantic era and its aftermath, for it uses Baroque elements

    introducing the idea of the modern piano prelude composed for the concert stage. Chopin used an

    old keyboard genre to move into a new direction. Entirely set apart from contemporaneous

    exercise-like pieces by Hummel, Kalkbrenner, and Cramer, Chopins set of twenty-four preludes

    is a contribution to the genre on a different level. Highly influenced by one of the seminalkeyboard compilations in history, Bachs two books of the Well-tempered Clavier, Chopins Op.

    28broke with all contemporaneous preludes and paved the road for his successors including

    Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, and Shostakovich. All the popular sets of Romantic and

    twentieth-century preludes are indebted to Chopin, for he was the first composer to compose a

    set of preludes for the concert stage. This chapter will demonstrate that Chopin looked back to

    the Baroque while simultaneously breaking entirely with his own time. Following a discussion of

    some neo-Baroque elements in Op. 28especially those from the Well-tempered Clavier,

    Chopins break with contemporaneous sets of preludes by Hummel, Kalkbrenner, and Clementi

    will be explained.

    Chopin and the Baroque

    Chopin was well aware of eighteenth-century music and admired the masters of the

    Baroque. On 30 July 1840, he wrote, The Public has to think of itself lucky if from time to time

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    notes in the right handreminiscent of funeral march rhythmcombined with a descending

    bass line that had often been exploited by Baroque composers to portray despair, make this a

    tragic prelude influenced by the eighteenth century.

    Even more striking is the quasi-improvisatory style of composition in the F-Minor

    prelude, a direct imitation of the Baroque recitative style. Figure 3.2 shows abrupt changes of

    accented chords separated by eighth rests from rapid moving sixteenth notes. While the chords

    are reminiscent of those played by an accompanying Baroque harpsichordist, the parallel

    sixteenth-note runs are reminiscent of the vocal melody in a recitative. This speech-like quality is

    additionally highlighted by the rhythm, changing from sixteenth notes in mm. 910, toquintuplets in m. 11, to group of seventeen notes in m. 12. While this passage reflects the restless

    quality of furious declamation interrupted by the sforzando chords, the texture is a clear homage

    to the recitatifseccoof the Baroque.

    Fig. 3.2 Prelude No. 18 in F minor, mm. 913.

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    Of all the Baroque composers, it was J. S. Bach, in particular, that occupied Chopins

    attention. His letters are full of his admiration for the Baroque master. On 28 December 1838, he

    wrote in a letter to Julian Fontana that the things surrounding him in his cell in Palma are,

    besides a leaden candle stick and a little candle, his scrawls and Bach.74There is further proof

    that Chopin thoroughly studied and edited Bachs works, for he wrote on 8 August 1839, When

    I have nothing particular to do I am correcting for myself, in the Paris edition of Bach, not only

    the mistakes made by the engraver but those which are backed by the authority of people who

    are supposed to understand Bachnot that I have any pretensions to a deeper understanding, but

    I am convinced that I sometimes hit on the right answer.


    Chopin appreciated Bachs worksalso as exercises for pianists. On 31 October 1844 he closes his letter to Mlle de Rozires simply

    with the salutation, Practice a little Bach for me.76

    Considering Chopins admiration for Bach it is not surprising that the Prludeswere

    greatly influenced by the two books of the Well-tempered Clavier. Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger

    writes, Bachs influence on the Prludes, as on Chopins music in general, is infinitely more

    powerful and subtle than that of any of the post-classical composers.77Comparing the first

    prelude of Bachs WTC and Chopins Opus 28, he writes:

    Through a succession of what strikes the listener as waves of sound, Chopins complexnotation, with the help of the sustaining pedal, may be taken as an instinctive, stylizeddevelopment of the bris lute writing of which Bachs piece is an obvious example.This detail is enough on its own to substantiate Chopins debt to Bach.78


    Chopin, Selected Correspondence, 165.75Ibid., 1812.

    76Ibid., 241.

    77Jean-Jaques Eigeldinger, Twenty-Four Preludes Op. 28: Genre, Structure, Significance, in ChopinStudies, ed. Jim Samson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 173.

    78Ibid., 175.

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    Fig. 3.3 Prelude No. 1 in C Major, mm. 16.

    The example shows the waves of sound sustained by the damper pedal. The harmonic rhythm

    here is reminiscent of Bachs famous C-Major prelude from the first book of the WTC where the

    harmonies also change every measure. While Eigeldinger calls prelude Op. 28, No. 3 a

    reworking of a two-part invention, he links the famous E-minor prelude, again, to the Crucifixus

    in the B-minor Mass:

    In Op. 28 No. 4 the layout of the left hand, with its chords in close position, cloaks thedescending, chromatic movement of three independent lines; superimposed lines whichrepresent Chopins response to the harmonic polyphony of the Crucifixus from the Bminor Mass. In writing this elegy in E minor, Chopin had recourse to the key traditionallyassociated with lamentation in the Baroque catalogue of affects.79

    About Bachs influence on Chopins set as a whole, Eigeldinger writes:

    The transfigured imprint of Bach in the twenty-four preludes is to be seen most clearly intheir texture; powerful and new as this is, the harmony is often clearly the result ofsuperimposed lines. Many of the pieces are built from a polymelodic texture of the mostinventive kind, and very long way from the neo-Baroque counterpoint practiced at thissame period by Mendelssohn or Schumann.80

    Other scholars have referred to the connection between Bach and Chopin as well. For

    instance, Yunjoo Kang compares the twelfth prelude from the WTC I to Chopins C-Major

    prelude. In her dissertation, she writes that in both pieces a melodic line is drawn from a short

    79Ibid., 176.

    80Ibid., 175.

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    motivic figuration which also generates a harmonic progression.81Edgar Stillman Kelley also

    explains Bachs influence, Chopin had not only learned the art of development from Bach,

    but also how to economize, for he utilized to the utmost his thematic material, wasting

    nothing.82There is no scholar who would disagree or deny that there is a major influence of

    Bachs Well-tempered Clavier(WTC) on Chopins work. After all, he even took a copy of the

    WTC with him to Majorca where he composed at least some of his Prludes.83Chopins Op. 28,

    was not only highly influenced by J. S. Bach, it was also the first publication of highly

    sophisticated preludes since the Baroque. Therefore it is fair to say that Chopin revitalized the

    Prelude tradition.

    Contemporaneous Sets of Preludes

    Chopins set was not only the first major contribution to the prelude genre in all twenty-

    four keys since Bach, but also a revolutionary change in the history of preludes. To understand

    Chopins drastic break in style, it is essential to take a closer look at the contemporaneous

    publications of preludes. The most important sets of nineteenth-century preludes published prior

    to Chopins opus 28 are shown in Table 3.1.

    81Yunjoo Kang, The Chopin Preludes Opus 28: An Eclectic Analysis with Performance Guide (Ph.D.

    diss., New York University, 1994), 1921.82Edgar Stillman Kelley, Chopin: The Composer(New York: G. Schirmer, 1913), 1278.

    83Anselm Gerhard, Reflexionen ber den Beginn der Musik: Eine neue Deutung von Frdric ChopinsPrludes op. 28 (Reflections on the beginning of music: A new interpretation of Frdric Chopins Prludes op.28), inDeutsche Musik im Wegkreuz zwischen Polen und Frankreich (German music as an intersection betweenPoland and France), ed. Christoph-Hellmut Mahling and Kristina Pfarr(Eurasburg: Hans Schneider Tutzing, 1996),100.

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    Table 3.1 Publications of preludes in the early nineteenth century.

    Composer Title Publication Date

    Bernard Viguerie(c. 17611819)

    12 Preludes 1804

    Daniel Steibelt(17651823)

    Trois preludes ou capricespour le forte-piano


    Muzio Clementi(17521832)

    Preludes and Exercises 1811, rev. 1820

    Johann NepomukHummel


    24 Preludes Op. 67 181415

    Johan Baptist Cramer(17711858)

    Twenty six preludes orshort introductions in theprincipal major & minor

    keys for the piano forte


    Friedrich Kalkbrenner(17851849)

    24 prludes dans tous lestons


    A closer look at these publications shows that they are not concert pieces but exercises for

    pedagogical use. Clementis Preludes and Exercisesis subtitled School of Scales and is clearly

    a method book with music not intended for the concert stage. It contains twenty-four exercises or

    etudes, one in each major and minor key. Eighteen of these exercises are preceded by one or

    more preludes in the same key.84The number of preludes for each exercise ranges from none to

    84The C-Major exercise is preceded by five preludes, whereas only one prelude introduces the D-Minorexercise.

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    five. Those exercises preceded by several preludes leave the student with a choice of which to

    use. Clementi has organized the preludes and exercises neither chromaticallyas Bach did in the

    Well-tempered Claviernor according to the ascending circle of fifths. Although every major

    key is followed by its relative minorjust as in Chopins setthe order of keys is unorthodox.

    Clementi starts in C Major. After that he moves in succession one fifth downwards from C (to F),

    followed by a move by one fifth upwards from C (to G). That means, the first set of preludes and

    exercises is in C Major and A minor, the second one is in F Major and D minor, the third one in

    G Major and E minor, followed by one in BbMajor and G minor. Therefore, the first pair of

    preludes has no accidentals, the second one has one flat, the third one has one sharp, the fourthone has two flats, the fifth one has two sharps, and so on. In short: Ca, Fd, Ge, Bbg, Db,

    Ebc,. This procedure continues through all major and minor keys until the set closes with F#

    major and Ebminor. Starting with the key of E minor, there is only one prelude to each exercise

    and after the key of Dbmajor, there are no preludes anymore. That leaves the last six exercises

    without preludes. Since the number of preludes decreases from five to zero, Clementi most likely

    encouraged the student to begin improvising the introductions as he moved through the method

    book. That would also explain why the first etudes have several different preludes as models for

    improvisation. In this case the student, having been exposed to different types of preludes at the

    beginning of the set, gradually has to leave the printed page and improvise on his own.

    Kalkbrenners set of twenty-four preludes in all the major and minor keys is clearly for

    teaching purposes as well. The preludes are exercises reminiscent of Czernys etudes,

    distinguished by parallel scale, and broken chord, movement in both hands. The preludes are

    organized chromatically, starting with C Major and C minor, followed by DbMajor and C#minor,

    and so on. The last prelude, in B minor, stands out. This eleven-page piece begins in B minor in

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    4/4 time markedAgitato. Following a slow middle-section in 3/4 time in the key of F#minor, the

    piece closes with a Presto-section, back in 4/4 time in the original key. The piece is further

    distinguished by a short four-voice fugato and several drastic texture changes. This prelude, at

    the end of a catalogue of exercises, is an attempt to expose the student to a variety of keyboard

    writing styles. However, it would certainly not make a good performance piece, with its

    awkward abrupt changes in style and texture.

    Hummels Op. 67 is the most commonly quoted example of twenty-four preludes

    published prior to Chopin. However, these preludes are not independent pieces to be grouped for

    performance or played as a whole set. Hummels purpose for this group of exercises is madeclear by its title: Vorspiele fr das PianoForte: Vor dem Anfange eines Stckes aus allen 24

    Dur und mol Tonarten zum ntzlichen Gebrauch fr Schler (Preludes for the piano-forte: for

    before-the-beginning of a piece, in all twenty-four major and minor keys, for useful usage by


    These twenty-four preludes are cadenza-like sketches to be played before a piece in the

    given key. The preludes, almost all in rapid tempos with scalar motions, either moving parallel in

    both hands, or in the right hand over sustained chords, are reminiscent of warm-up exercises. The

    only similarity to Chopins set of twenty-four preludes is the tonal organization, according to the

    ascending circle of fifths, each major key followed by its relative minor. Hummels preludes

    comprise a useful catalogue of short fragments of music to be used as introductions to other

    music in all twenty-four major and minor keys, but are not concert pieces to be selected for a


    85Johann Nepomuk Hummel, 24 Preludes, Op. 67, The Complete Works for Piano(New York: GarlandPublishing, 1989), 195.

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    ChopinsPrludesin Comparison to Contemporaneous Sets of Preludes

    The early nineteenth-century preludes by composers like Hummel and Kalkbrenner are

    short pieces intended for pedagogical use. In contrast, Chopins twenty-four preludes are highly

    sophisticated concert pieces that have remained in the standard repertory of pianists since their

    first publication. Scholars and performers alike have tried to explain why Chopins set of

    preludes is so revolutionary and provocative. Schumann initially expressed his bewilderment,86

    but in 1841 Franz Liszt called the collection as a unique class governed by its own rules.87Even

    today, Chopins Op. 28 has not lost its provocative qualities. In 2007 James William Sobaskie

    wrote, Brief as they may be, the Prludes of Frdric Chopin never fail to provoke us.


    There are several reasons for this provocation. First, many of these miniatures lack a

    traditional form. Some of the preludes are cast in binary and ternary form, but there are several

    that stand out as a short single musical idea in one-part form.89Second, there is striking stylistic

    and emotional variety and the pieces are unpredictable, for they range from Mazurka-like

    miniatures (A-Major prelude) to tremendously difficult full-scale etudes (Bb-minor prelude).

    Chopin juxtaposes extreme contrasts and stylistic differences throughout the set to an extent that

    the listener does not know what will come next. For instance after the threatening and furious F

    minor prelude, which lacks any melody or recognizable form, there is the Eb-Major prelude,

    cheerful, light in a simple ternary form. The sheer emotional variety within the set is so striking

    86Robert Schumann,Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik41 (November 1839): 163, quoted in Jean-Jaques

    Eigeldinger,Chopin Prludes, Op. 28, Op. 45(London: C. F. Peters, 2003), 91.87Franz Liszt, Frdric Chopin, trans. Edward N. Waters (New York: Macmillan, 1963), 14.

    88James William Sobaskie, Precursive Prolongation in the Prludesof Chopin, inJournal of the Societyof Musicology in Ireland 3, (20078): 1.

    89Ronald Eugene Cole, Analysis of the Chopin Preludes, Opus 28 (M.M. thesis, The Florida StateUniversity, 1968), 4.

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    that each prelude functions as a unique emotional statement, a brief idea or a feeling expressed at

    the piano. As Jeffrey Kresky writes, there are twenty-four distinct moods, each in miniature.

    He continues, The group as a whole may stand almost as a summary of the imaginable mood

    types available to the romantic composer, a veritable museum of the expressive possibilities

    opening up to the composer in Chopins century.90

    The third reason for their uniqueness is their poetic quality. Sobaskie recalls that both

    Robert Schumann and Franz Liszt were moved to invoke the metaphor of poetry. 91He writes,

    Describing the contents of Chopins Op. 28 as poetic Prludes, he [Franz Liszt] acknowledged

    their capacity to engage the imagination, to stimulate expectation, to convey more than theirsurfaces connotein short, to provoke aesthetic responses akin to those of verse.92The beauty

    about poetry is that it can imply things that cannot be directly said. That means, poetry can evoke

    imaginations beyond the realms of regular speech. This is the case with Chopins Op. 28.

    Sobaskie explains the relationship between Chopins preludes and poetry as follows:

    Chopin may have been inspired by the example of poetry when composing his Prludes,perhaps emulating its capacity for nuance, its power to suggest more than it says, itsability to begin a story without finishing it at the last line or start one in the middle andlead to an inevitable conclusion. While one finds nothing analogous to syllabic patterns,rhyme schemes, alliteration or assonance, there is an unmistakable seductiveness toChopins music, as well as a certain vocality, that is reminiscent of poetry. This maybegin to explain why we have found the Prludes so provocativeand endlesslyintriguing.93

    Analyzing half of the Prludes, he demonstrates musical types of allusion, especially tonal

    implication. Just as verbal implication in poetry, tonal implication has the power to elicit

    90Jeffrey Kresky,A Readers Guide to the Chopin Preludes (London: Greenwood Press, 1994), 14.

    91Sobaskie, 26.


    93Ibid., 27

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    expectation and to arouse anticipation and inspire imagination. In short, it provokes aesthetic

    responses in engaged listeners.94

    While inspired by Bachs works and the Baroque tradition, Chopins Prludesstand apart

    from contemporaneous publications not only in their sophistication and compositional quality,

    but in their lack of traditional form, emotional variety, and poetry-like allusions. They were the

    first and only publication of serious concert pieces within this genre at the time. However,

    Chopins Op. 28 stands out in one more way. The Prludesare a coherent cycle of works unified

    on several levels.

    94Ibid., 28.

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    major to parallel minor may well be heard in compositional terms, as a shifting or adjustment of

    mode; but the move up is not tonal in any usual sense, keys a half step apart having pretty much

    nothing in common in normal tonal ways.96Chopin has arranged his Prludesin a less

    catalogue-like but more musical way, so that the route through these keys will seem itself

    musical.97Kresky points out, The move into the next major key from the relative minor of the

    previous major key will feature certain automatic correspondences in terms of shared scale tones,

    chords, and the like.98This can be observed already at the very beginning of the set, where the

    second prelude in A minor is directly linked to the first one in C Major.

    Fig. 4.1 Prelude No. 1 in C Major, mm.2833. The soprano ends on E4.

    Fig. 4.2 Prelude No. 2 in A minor, mm. 14. E4 resounds in the right hand.

    A comparison of the two examples shows that the final note E4 in the soprano of the C-Major

    preludeemphasized by the fermataresounds, in a different context as the first melody note in

    the A-minor prelude, after the dark and slow moving left-hand accompaniment introduces the

    piece. This might be analogous to the same character of a theater play finding himself in a

    96Ibid., xv.



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    completely different setting or state of mind. Chopin is careful to not exaggerate these special re-

    soundings of last notes as new first notes. Kresky points out, Indeed, these possibilities are not

    compositionally exploited by the composer, but seem instead to lurk under the surface, enforcing

    an even flow of convincing naturalness.99Table 4.1 lists all instances of re-soundings of

    common tones between the ending and beginnings of two successive preludes.

    Table 4.1 All instances of resounding tones between two successive preludes.

    1. in C Major 2. in A Minor

    3. in G Major 4. in E Minor

    11. in B Major 12. in G#Minor

    17. in AbMajor 18. in F Minor

    19. in EbMajor 20. in C Minor

    21. in BbMajor 22. G Minor

    Table 4.1 shows that there are six such instances, spread throughout the entire set. When

    performed as a set, the connections between these coupled preludes give the impression of a

    continuous flow from one piece to another.

    Another factor with an even greater and more obvious impact on the overall coherence is

    the use of contrasts between pieces. Whereas the preludes and fugues in the WTC comprise a

    catalogue-like organizationthere are no compelling balances or flow as the pieces progress


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    the preludes in Chopins set seem to fit together, one being a consequence of the other. Kresky

    points out, In the Chopin Prludeswe find the greatest care taken to assure that a piece of one

    stark type is followed by a striking and refreshing contrast, in terms of mood, length, scope,

    intensity.100One only has to think of the extremely short and agitated Prelude No. 14 in Eb

    minor which is embedded in between the long and lyrical Preludes in F#Major and DbMajor.

    Another instance is the furious and restless Prelude No. 18 in F minor followed by the pure and

    cheerful Prelude No. 19 in EbMajor.

    In his search for motivic rela