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November 21, 2008

Andreas M. Boelcke
I, _________________________________________________________,
hereby submit this work as part of the requirements for the degree of:

Doctor of Musical Arts

Piano Performance
It is entitled:
Chopin’s 24 Préludes, Opus 28:

A Cycle Unified by Motion between the

Fifth and Sixth Scale Degrees

This work and its defense approved by:
bruce d. mcclung, Ph. D.
Chair: _______________________________
Frank Weinstock, M. M.
Elizabeth Pridonoff, M. M.


Chopin’s 24 Préludes, Opus 28:
A Cycle Unified by Motion between the
Fifth and Sixth Scale Degrees

A document submitted to the

The Graduate School
of the University of Cincinnati
in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of


in the Keyboard Studies Division
of 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.


Chopin’s twenty-four Préludes, 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 Chopin’s Op. 28 and an
outline of the history of keyboard preludes, the set will be compared to the contemporaneous ones
by Hummel, Clementi, and Kalbrenner. The following chapter discusses previous theories of
coherence in Chopin’s Préludes, including those by Jósef 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 marcato accents, 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.


Boelcke All rights reserved iv .Copyright © 2008 by Andreas M.

All deaths were unexpected and shocking. Going through this difficult time would have been impossible without my wife. I lost three family members. and how to organize my thoughts on paper than anyone else in my academic career. and less than two months after that my first-born child. Professor Frank Weinstock––my piano teacher and mentor throughout my time at CCM who has always helped me in all matters throughout the years––and Professor Elizabeth Pridonoff. first my aunt who had always been like a mother to me. I want to further thank my advisor. who has not only supported me in these times but also encouraged me to continue with this project.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS During the work on this document in 2007. as well as Cambridge University Press for the permission to include Eigeldinger’s list of examples. research. I want to thank Dover Publications for allowing me to reproduce all twenty-four preludes of Chopin’s Op. Dr. one month later my dear father. Adrian. 28 as musical examples in this document. v . mcclung who has taught me––with his many corrections––more about writing style. My further thanks go to the two readers of this document. a most warm and wonderful person whose master-classes have inspired me as a musician. This document would have never been possible without his help.

and Adrian vi .To Ursula Kolb. Armin Boelcke.

eagles’ feathers. if you will ruins. feverish. like his Etudes. Philistines. in his own refined hand. It is almost the contrary here: these are sketches. poet-soul of today. But let everyone look in it for something that will enchant him. all wildly. however. variegatedly intermingled. To be sure. carried out in the grand style. or. must keep away.I must signalize the Preludes as most remarkable. ––Robert Schumann (1839) vii . repellent traits. the book also contains some morbid. written in pearls. “This is by Frederic Chopin. the proudest.” We recognize him in his pauses. and by his impetuous respiration. the beginnings of studies. He is the boldest. But in every piece we find. I will confess that I expected something quite different.




ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ……………………….………………………………..……


LIST OF MUSICAL EXAMPLES ………………………………………………..……..


LIST OF TABLES ……………………………….………………………………………


Chopin as a Revolutionary…………………………………………………………
Document Organization ……………………………………………………………
Literature on The Préludes……………………….………………………………...


CHAPTER 1: ORIGINS OF THE PRÉLUDES, OP. 28………………………...………..
Dates of Composition………….. ………………………………...........................
Majorca: October 1838–January 1839……………………………………...……..


Origins and Early Development…………………………………….……………
Preludes during the Baroque……………………………………………………..
Preludes during the Classical Era…………………………………………….…..
Revival of Preludes in the Nineteenth Century…………………………………..


Chopin and the Baroque………………………………………………………….
Contemporaneous Sets of Preludes………………………………………………
Chopin’s Préludes in Comparison to Contemporaneous Sets of Preludes……... .


General Coherence Elements……………………………………………….….…
Chominski’s Large-Scale Plan…………………………………………..……….
Eigeldinger’s Motivic Recurrences………………………………………………
Anselm Gerhard’s Philosophical Idea……………………………………….....…


THE PRÉLUDES ….............................................................................................................. 59
Scalar Motion as Melodic Idea…………………………….…………………….. 59
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 Marcato Accents….…
Motion Between the Two Scale Degrees at Climactic Moments ……………..…







Fig. 3.1 Prelude No. 20 in C minor, mm. 5–8................................................................................... 28
Fig. 3.2 Prelude No. 18 in F minor, mm. 9–13. ................................................................................ 29
Fig. 3.3 Prelude No. 1 in C Major, mm. 1–6. ................................................................................... 31
Fig. 4.1 Prelude No. 1 in C Major, mm.28–33. The soprano ends on E4......................................... 40
Fig. 4.2 Prelude No. 2 in A minor, mm. 1–4. E4 resounds in the right hand. .................................. 40
Fig. 4.3. Chominski’s list of motives................................................................................................ 45
Fig. 4.4 Eigeldinger’s X motive. ....................................................................................................... 47
Fig. 4.5 Eigeldinger’s Y motive. ....................................................................................................... 47
Fig. 4.6 Eigeldinger’s list of X and Y motives in the Préludes. ........................................................ 48
Fig. 4.7 Prelude No. 15 in Db Major, mm. 5–9. The dominant pedal Ab3 in the left hand creates
harmonic instability. ......................................................................................................................... 55
Fig. 4.8 Prelude No. 1 in C Major, mm 1–3. Opening movement from G3 to A3. .......................... 56
Fig. 4.9 Prelude No. 1 in C Major, mm. 28–34. Closing Statement from A3 to G3. ....................... 56
Fig. 4.10 Prelude No. 20 in C minor, m. 1. Beginning (G4–Ab4) and ending (Ab4–G4) takes place
in the same measure. ......................................................................................................................... 56
Fig. 4.11 Prelude No. 7 in A Major, mm. 1–4. ................................................................................. 57
Fig. 5.1 Prelude No. 4 in E minor, mm. 1–3..................................................................................... 59
Fig. 5.2 Prelude No. 9 in E Major, mm. 1–2..................................................................................... 60
Fig. 5.3 Prelude No. 11 in B Major, mm. 1–5. ................................................................................. 60
Fig. 5.4 Prelude No. 20 in C Minor, m.1. ......................................................................................... 61
Fig. 5.5 Prelude No. 1 in C Major, mm. 1–3. ................................................................................... 61
Fig. 5.6 Prelude No. 1 in C Major, mm. 28–34. ............................................................................... 62


... 5......... 70 Fig.......... 5............ 10 in C# minor............................................... 12 in G# minor................. mm.. mm.... .................. 1–2....... 3 in G Major...................... 48–61...........17 Prelude No............... 5.. 24 in D minor.......... 5.................. 63 Fig. mm.... 62 Fig................ 18–23... 69 Fig....... 1–4...... mm.......................... 5...7 Prelude No........... 72 Fig............10 Prelude No. 1–4.... 5............ 5 in D Major..21 Prelude No.......... 66 Fig.. mm... 64 Fig.......... 1–2... .....8 Prelude No.......... 5..............22 Prelude No...... .. 5..26 Prelude No.................. 65 Fig................... 19 in Eb Major................24 Prelude No...18 Prelude No...... ........ 66 Fig.......... 5..........................14 Prelude No........ 1–2................... 5... 2 in A minor................................... 5. ................ 1–2.... 5... 5.... ...............................................11 Prelude No.................... .......... 13 in F# Major...9 Prelude No. mm........... mm......... 71 Fig............................20 Prelude No................................. mm..16 Prelude No.. 1–2...... 1–3.... mm......... 3–5........................ 32–9.. 15 in Db Major........................ mm............ 1–2.... 20–1..... .12 Prelude No...... mm...... 18 in F minor....... 14 in Eb minor...... 6–7............... ................... mm.................... 5...............................................23 Prelude No.... 5–6 and mm.................... 5.................. mm..................... 23 in F Major............27 Prelude No........... ........ 5 in D Major..... 64 Fig.15 Prelude No.............. 5.......... 21 in F Major... .................... 22 in G minor.... 5........................25 Prelude No... 7 in A Major........................ ............. 17 in Ab Major................ 8 in F# minor............... ............ 65 Fig.. mm.................... 63 Fig............................... 71 Fig.................. 5.. 72–77............. mm........ 62 Fig..........................Fig...............13 Prelude No........ .. mm 39–40...................................... mm............ 1–10................... mm.... 5...... mm................ mm..................... 5............... 70–81.................... 1–8............... 64 Fig. 6 in B minor.................... 73 xi ........................... 70 Fig.......................................... ........... 3 in G Major... 68 Fig................................. 66 Fig..

. 41 4..3 Central core of Op..1 Type of 5–6 Motion…………………………………………………………. 28……………………………………………………..1 Publications of preludes in the early nineteenth century………………………. 33 4. 44 ^ ^ 5.1 Compositional dates of Chopin’s Préludes…………………………………………….1 All Instances of resounding tones between two successive preludes……...…………. 10 3..TABLES Table 1.2 Chominski’s large-scale outline of the Préludes………………………….………….……. 43 4.……….…………. xii 74 .

Rachmaninoff. quoted in ibid. Peters. I will maintain the French spelling when referring to the set as a whole. most controversial work of Frederic Chopin. composers. these unusual pieces have attracted the attention of pianists. 93. Op. Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (November 1839): 163. Messiaen.. 171–2. 2 Robert Schumann. With respect to his intentions. 1 Chopin published his set of twenty-four preludes as 24 Préludes pour le piano. are the many independent preludes for piano. 28 are the most discussed and. Robert Schumann expressed his surprise and admiration in his famous review published in the same year as the Préludes. When discussing the general term. 1 . Debussy. In the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. yet. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell. 28. Mezzotints in Modern Music. Op. F. 45 (London: C. Chopin Préludes. Ginastera. “Prelude. Antheil. Scelsi and Martinů. 4 Howard Ferguson.p. whose prototype was Chopin’s matchless set of 24 Préludes…of 1836–9…. 2d ed. or individual preludes by Chopin I will use the English spelling. quoted in Jean-Jaques Eigeldinger.” in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Szymanowski. and music scholars. [Chopin] seems to have established the prelude as an important kind of non-programmatic characteristic piece subsequently exploited by such composers as Skryabin. James Huneker wrote. 91..1 Since they were published in 1839. Kabalevsky. “The Préludes alone would make Chopin’s claim to immortality. however. Gershwin. 2003). 2d ed. “Typical of the Romantic period and its aftermath.2 and in 1888.”3 The Préludes influence on subsequent composers was tremendous. ed. 1899). 3 James Huneker. 20: 293. Howard Ferguson writes. In 1974 Maurice Ohana composed a set of twenty-four preludes in which the last piece ends with the three low Ds.”4 The Préludes’ influence continued throughout the twentieth century. (New York: n. works in this genre by other composers.INTRODUCTION The 24 Préludes. an homage to Chopin’s set of preludes that ends in the same manner. Op.

Chromaticism as found in Chopin’s works became more common during the second half of the nineteenth century. his vague tonal beginnings. His bifocal use of seventh chords. 1988). his musical language was remarkable. his harmonic language must have sounded new and bewildering to contemporaneous audiences. the Préludes. his planning of unresolved seventh chords. for with this collection the hitherto utilitarian prelude became essentially autonomous. 28 are particularly innovative and revolutionary. In the early nineteenth century. 6 Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger.” in Chopin Studies. His musical style reveals a progressiveness and a desire to move into a new direction. his occasional experiments in non-tonality–– all these have captured the attention of scholars. 2000). Jim Samson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Chopin as a Revolutionary Chopin was a revolutionary for his time. 2 . Although there have been preludes for keyboard for centuries. his modulations to remote keys. tonicising chromatic sequences. Chopin’s contribution to this genre is distinct from both previous and contemporaneous preludes. ed. his local and remote mixtures of modal and chromatic harmony. His music was a forerunner of what is now termed extended chromaticism. “Melodic Structuring of Harmonic Dissonance: A Method for Analyzing Chopin’s Contribution to the Development of Harmony. Op. his non-cadential endings. Kalkbrenner. and Kramer. his extended pedal points creating a sense of harmonic stasis. His Préludes stand out because they are pieces composed in an entirely new manner. 28 (1839) mark a significant break in the long history of the genre.”6 5 Eugene Narmour. As a result. 28 by Frédéric Chopin (London: Edition Peters. Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger writes. Eugene Narmour writes: Chopin’s importance in the development of tonal harmony has received wide acclaim in the field of musicology. 77. preface to Préludes Op. They are neither introductory pieces to fugues nor etude-like exercises as found in other sets of the time by Hummel. vi. his rapid.5 From all of Chopin’s works. “Chopin’s twenty-four Preludes Op.

the first chapter of this document focuses on the origins of the Préludes. But Chopin’s set is the first instance of preludes that stand out as a set of character pieces. I discuss the idea of coherence in Chopin’s Op. Chominski. Only if one places Chopin’s set into its historical context can the newness and revolutionary aspects of his Préludes become clear. organized into all major and minor keys and published under one opus number. to lyrical song-forms. Document Organization No document on a musical work is complete without containing a note on its origins. Because the Préludes do not fit into any contemporaneous category. and Friedrich Kalkbrenner. and Jósef M. to etude-like pieces. Therefore. the sets by Muzio Clementi. All four scholars have identified features within the Préludes that 3 . In keyboard literature. To appreciate that Chopin’s set of preludes was unique and new.Chopin’s Préludes are unusual in their brevity and the lack of traditional form (in many of them). it is necessary to briefly trace the history of the prelude genre. Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger. They are short emotional statements. it is also indispensable to discuss the composer’s letters from that time. Thus. Anselm Gerhard. 28 as theorized by Jeffrey Kresky. and in this case. will be discussed in the following chapter. they were unique in music history. 28. preludes had existed as improvisatory and introductory pieces since the fifteenth century. ranging from mazurka-like dances. Chopin employed the old genre of the prelude as a vehicle for intense emotional expression. but also in terms of the striking variety of musical styles. the second chapter consists of a concise summary of the history of the prelude genre. Johann Nepomuk Hummel. In the fourth chapter of this document. for they provide insights into the compositional progress of Op. Those preludes contemporaneous to Chopin’s work.

5 in D Major.” Yangkyung Lee has grouped the nonharmonic tones of the Préludes into five categories: harmonic color. and inventive accompanimental patterns. No. continuity between phrases. She has grouped these fourteen preludes according to three types of non-harmonic tones. and inventive accompanimental patterns. 28. The repetition of these two scale degrees unifies the set. She concludes that the role of non-harmonic tones in Chopin’s Op. temporality. thesis. the fifth chapter proposes my own theory about the unifying principle of Chopin’s Préludes. No. 12 in G# minor. No.contribute to an overall coherence. No. 11 in B Major. Finally. continuity between phrases. 2002). No. 7 Yangkyung Lee. Repeated movements between these two scale degrees appear in the melody. 10 in C# minor. No. that include non-harmonic tones most prominently in their musical language: No. motivic integration.A. No. “Non-Harmonic Tones as Aesthetic Elements in Chopin’s Preludes. motivic integration. 28 can be summarized as harmonic color. 20 in C minor. are of special importance to all pieces in the set. University of Cincinnati. 2 in A minor. No. Op. Op. 14 in Eb minor. No. 17 in Ab Major. and anticipations. neighbor tones. 19 in Eb Major. 4 . the fifth and the sixth. 22 in G minor. 21 in B-flat Major. No.”7 Out of the twenty-four preludes she has selected those fourteen. as ostinato patterns. 28” (D. 13 in F# Major. temporality. 8 in F# minor. Literature on The Préludes There are several doctoral documents on Chopin’s Préludes. In her thesis “Non-Harmonic Tones as Aesthetic Elements in Chopin’s Preludes. During my research I found that two scale degrees. suspensions. Her thesis is an attempt to reveal the unique compositional qualities in the Préludes based their non-harmonic tones. No. No. and No. 18 in F minor. and opening motives from which the material of the piece is derived.M.

in her dissertation. and a Classical Musical Text: A New Look at Chopin’s Preludes. which may be used in a variety of combinations. an approach that functions on different analytical levels. This method is sensitive to the different ways on how the music is experienced. Following that he analyses Prelude No.”8 attempts to uncover compositional techniques and performance practice. and register. 2 in A minor. 19 in Eb Major. 6 in B minor. register to Preludes No.D. “The Chopin Preludes Opus 28: An Eclectic Analysis with Performance Guide” (Ph. “Structuralism. he discusses cross-references with an emphasis upon one parameter of the music such as pitch. texture. 9 David Bunker Schwarz. The University of Texas. She uses the so-called eclectic analysis. diss.D.” He discusses the cross-reference between a selected number of preludes with “an emphasis upon one parameter of the music such as pitch. No. 17 in Ab major. and a hermeneutic phenomenological analysis of musical references. 9 in E Major. 12 in G# minor. she explains musical syntax with a Schenkerian approach. 1 in C Major. Opus 28” (Ph. No. 15 in Db Major. 5 . In 1987 David Bunker Schwarz wrote a theoretical dissertation entitled “Structuralism. and No. Kang provides a conventional analysis of syntax. Post-Structuralism. No. 1987). No. New York University. Austin. 1994). No.. While he applies his system of codes to Prelude No. diss. Her study is based on a detailed analysis of four selected preludes: No. 16 in Bb minor. In addition. 22 in G minor. Opus 28. “The Chopin Preludes Opus 28: An Eclectic Analysis with Performance Guide. No. No. 8 Yunjoo Kang.”9 He considers all available tools of musical analysis as so-called codes. and No. 21 in Bb Major using Schenkerian sketches.. 4 in E minor. a descriptive phenomenological analysis of sound-in-time. In the conclusion he explains how the cross-referential codes might be extended to form the basis of a theory of music perception. texture.Yunjoo Kang. and a Classical Musical Text: A New Look at Chopin’s Preludes. 8 in F# minor. Post-Structuralism.

Chopin’s letters.67.56–. Vol. and ed. Chopin’s Musical Style by Gerald Abraham.19– . Suzanne. ed. 12 Fryderick Chopin.84.13 I have examined the articles “Autour des Préludes de Chopin” (Concerning the Chopin preludes).12 the other from 1963. Bronislav Édouard Sydow. I–III. Revue Musicale de Suisse Romande 25 (1972): 3–7. 14 Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger. Selected Correspondence of Fryderyk Chopin. University of California. while points of climax generally occur within the range . Chopin’s Letters.55.69–. of course.33. by Henryk Opieński (New York: Alfred Knopf. “Chopin et l’héritage baroque” (Chopin and the heritage of the Baroque). and Chopin Studies edited by Jim Samson. 1963). and trans. “A Theory of Form and Proportion in Music” (Ph. there are. and trans. diss. and Denise Chainaye (Paris: La Revue Musicale.15 “Le prélude «de la goutte d’eau» de Chopin” (The 10 Allen Arthur Dorfman. Correspondence de: édition définitive (The correspondence of Frédéric Chopin: The definitive edition).. proportionate to the whole. Arthur Hedley (New York: Da Capo Press. Schweizer Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft 2 (1974): 51–74. ed.14 “Chopin et l’héritage baroque” (Chopin and the heritage of the Baroque). including the complete letters in the original French.Allen Dorfman in his dissertation focused on ratio relations within individual preludes as well as with regard to the entire set. 15 Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger. “Autour des Préludes de Chopin” (Concerning the Chopin Preludes). . 10 He applies his method for the interpretation of musical form in all twenty-four preludes. 6 .11 and two English translations. coll. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.D. I have consulted three different editions. and . His diagrams represent the structure and shape of each prelude as well as the opening periods of twelve selected preludes. Los Angeles. Based upon the resulting thirty-six forms he concludes in his study that structural divisions tend to occur within the ranges of .44–. one from 1931. 13 Fryderick Chopin. Besides other useful references such as the Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. 11 Fryderick Chopin. 1986). 1931). 1981).

“Chopins Preludes und Etudes und Bachs Wohltemperiertes Klavier” (Chopin’s preludes and etudes and Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier). Historische und Systematische Musikwissenschaft. 1996). “The Preludes Opus 28 by Fryderyk Chopin with Emphasis on Polish Sources” (D. 28 is a unified composition that stands as something unique in history. and “Chopins Preludes und Etudes und Bachs Wohltemperiertes Klavier” (Chopin’s preludes and etudes and Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier) by Walter Wiora. thesis. 19 Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger. 18 Jeffrey Kresky. instead. 28). ed. A Reader’s Guide to the Chopin Preludes (London: Greenwood Press. An extended research of these sources as well as an analysis of the Préludes has led me to the conclusion that Chopin’s Op. however. form a unified set.20 and Jósef M. mostly based on speculation. This article is not available in English but its essence has been summarized in Janet Marie Lopinski.18 Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger. 17 Walter Wiora. ed. the 16 Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger. Chopin has looked back to one of the most popular genres in keyboard literature. 28 (Reflections on the beginning of music: A new interpretation of Frédéric Chopin’s Préludes op. The most essential sources for this document. Structure. 20 Anselm Gerhard. 21 Jósef M. 167–93. 7 . Revue de Musicologie Société Française de Musicologie 61 (1975): 70–90. however. Jim Samson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. “Twenty-four Preludes Op. 1972). Hellmut Kühn and Christoph-Hellmut Mahling (München: Hans Schneider Tutzing. Preludia Chopina (Chopin’s preludes) (Kraków: PWM. Significance.“raindrop prelude” by Chopin)16 by the renowned Swiss musicologist Jean-Jaques Eigeldinger.” in Deutsche Musik im Wegkreuz zwischen Polen und Frankreich (German music as an intersection between Poland and France). Christoph-Hellmut Mahling and Kristina Pfarr (Eurasburg: Hans Schneider Tutzing. 28: Genre. 1990).M. Eine neue Deutung von Frédéric Chopins Préludes op. 99–112. ed. 1950). “Le prélude «de la goutte d’eau» de Chopin” (The “Raindrop Prelude” by Chopin).17 who proposes that Chopin had originally intended the Préludes as introductory pieces to his twenty-four etudes. Chominski.21 All four authors believe that the Préludes are not merely twenty-four miniatures. resembling the traditional prelude and fugue coupling––an interesting theory.” in Chopin Studies. 1994). 1988).19 Anselm Gerhard. are those written by the four scholars who have explored the topic of cyclic coherence: Jeffrey Kresky. Chominski.A. University of Cincinnati. 323–35. “Reflexionen über den Beginn der Musik. but.

and transformed it into a nineteenth-century cyclic composition.prelude. as I will show in the final chapter of this document. but instead he unified the preludes on a more subtle level. For these reasons the Préludes are a milestone in piano literature. He did not give descriptive titles or other hints to the pieces (as often found in Robert Schumann’s cycles). 8 .

Based on these facts. published in 1837 in Paris and London.” in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. it is incorrect to assume that it was of particular importance to Chopin that his Préludes would receive the number 28. Op. it is almost certain that Chopin had at least started to think about composing the Preludes in 1836––after the publication of the Nocturnes. 27––and had spent a long time writing the preludes.22 By the time Chopin published the Préludes. in June 1839. is the Impromptu in Ab Major. while the Preludes’ successor. 9 .CHAPTER 1 ORIGINS OF THE PRÉLUDES. Op..23 Maurice J. the opus number 28 remained open. during his stay in Majorca during the winter of 1838–9. E. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell. Op. “The Chronology of Chopin’s Preludes. 28. most likely from 1835–39. 5: 728. Based on an evaluation of all available facts and logical 22 Kornel Michalowski and Jim Samson. 28 Date of Composition There is uncertainty to the exact origins of the Preludes. Op. While most scholars suggest that Chopin composed some. “Chopin. However. 2d ed. The composer’s previous work is the two Nocturnes. written in Autumn 1835. 23 Maurice J. Fryderyk Franciszek. OP. while he moved on with other compositions.” Musical Times 98 (1957): 424. if not most pieces of Op. and published in May 1836. 28. E. there is little evidence to support this idea. 27. Because the compositional process took several years. 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. Brown. ed. Brown has attempted to reconstruct the compositional history of the Préludes. his compositional output had already reached the opus number 34. 29.

Everything else about the Préludes origins remains speculative. 4*. While the popular assumption that most pieces were composed during Chopin’s stay in Majorca is still possible. Majorca: October 1838–January 1839 Chopin’s stay in Majorca with George Sand has been often mentioned and romanticized when in reality it was an extremely difficult. 11.24 Table 1. 16. 6. there is only certainty for only four out of the twenty-four preludes. Is she really a woman?” 26 Ibid. 4. in autumn 1837. 14. 22. they found themselves on the 24 Ibid. 12. 21* . 24 1. their love was “almost kindled almost instantly. that Chopin spent more time on the Préludes than on his other works––four years at the least––and that some of them were composed during his stay in Majorca. 19. 2*. Nos.”26 Only four months later. 10*. if not disastrous trip. in October 1838. Table 1. 13. 709.assumptions. however. 2. 9. 20 October 1838– January 1839 at Majorca 3. 23. “What an unattractive person La Sand is. Autumn 1836 1837 1835– October 1838 Preludes Nos.1 Compositional dates of Chopin’s Préludes. 5. At their first meeting. 7* 17*. and 21. 8. Sand left a terrible impression on Chopin. he has compiled a list of possible composition dates with only six preludes (marked with an asterix in Table 1.25 but when they met again in April 1838. 25 Michalowski and Samson. 18. 10. 15.1) whose actual date can be assigned with certainty.1 shows that the vast majority of preludes were most likely composed between 1835 and 1838. 10 . It is certain.” and by early June of the same year “the pair were lovers. Chopin wrote.

”27 It was not only Chopin’s intention to finish the remaining preludes during this stay but he even paid for this vacation by selling his Préludes in advance to the Paris publisher Camille Pleyel in October. oranges. partly to escape the difficulties posed by her former lover Félicien Mallefille. 185. About two weeks later. How was it sent? You will soon receive some Préludes. a sea like lapis lazuli. and the change in climate and scenery had given him an upswing that lasted for only a few days. 29 Frederic Chopin. “with Sand’s two children. 423. mountains. 186. and the third that I shall die. Moorish walls. the third poked about and listened how I spat it. Everything looks towards Africa. palms…. Sun all day. roses.28 At the beginning of the vacation. 30 Ibid. the most beautiful situation in the world. 1931). One sniffed at what I spat up.. He awaited the piano and was confident he would be able finish the Préludes in no time. One said I had died. palms. and ed. I have been sick as a dog these last two weeks. Go to Pleyel. On 3 December 1838 he wrote again to Fontana: I can’t send you the manuscript [of the Préludes]. In short. for it is not finished. he gives a frightening picture of himself. however. On 19 November he wrote to Julian Fontana from Palma in Majorca: A sky like turquoise. as the town does. the second tapped where I spat it from. I shall probably lodge in a wonderful monastery. Besides the devastating health 27 Ibid. I am coming alive a little. everyone in summer clothing. E. Huge balconies with grape-vines overhead. trans.Mediterranean island of Majorca. the piano has not yet come. 28 Brown. L. a glorious life…. and hot. at night guitars and singing for hours. Chopin’s Letters. my dear. 11 . sea. mountains like emerald. the second that I am dying.Ah. This was only the beginning. Voynich (New York: Alfred A Knopf.30 The letter shows that Chopin’s health condition had worsened. air like heaven. figs and three most famous doctors of the island. I caught a cold in spite of 18 degrees of heat.29 This letter shows that Chopin enjoyed the Mediterranean setting and the warm temperatures. Chopin was thrilled with the wonderful island.

situation. 187–8. Despite these circumstances.. On 28 December 1838. who perhaps had more fire in his soul than I…I think I shall soon send you my Préludes and a Ballade. and it was accommodation which was quite unable to withstand the harsh Majorcan winter. his capability to work was very limited. Chopin seemed to be still full of hope. Arthur Hedley (New York: Da Capo Press. for they are not finished: I feel better and will hurry up. the Mazurka in E minor. only cough and covered with poultices for a long time past. 166. he wrote to Fontana on 14 December 1838: Meanwhile my manuscripts sleep. he wrote to Fontana. without compositional results. The following letter shows his continued threatening physical problems but also a spirit of hope and his confidence in finishing the Préludes as well as the Ballade. but I can’t sleep. during which Chopin’s health deteriorated rapidly. “I can’t send you the Préludes. a few hours’ journey from Palma. 12 . and the Polonaise in C minor. he remained ambitious.31 Two weeks later.…By late January Chopin’s illness had reached a shocking state. Less than two weeks after his visit with the three doctors. trans. and therefore. and the entire stay in Majorca––originally intended as a recreational vacation––turned into an extremely difficult time. Selected Correspondence of Frederic Chopin.”32 After the move to the Carthusian monastery in Valldemosa––into which Chopin had put so much hope––things deteriorated. the piano had not arrived yet. wait for the spring or for something else. Tomorrow I go to that wonderful monastery of Valldemosa. however. 1963). to write in the cell of some old monk. In The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians Kornel Michałowski and Jim Samson write: [The stay in Majorca] was an ill-considered venture.33 31 Ibid. and ed. and George Sand her two children] with the utmost suspicion and were reluctant even to sell them basic provisions. the Ballade in F Major.…The locals treated the group [Chopin. 32 Frederic Chopin. 33 Michalowski and Samson. for he worked on the Scherzo in C# minor. 709. and the party was obliged to leave the island. For most of the time their rooms were in an old Carthusian monastery at Valldemosa. but again.

35 Ibid. Brown writes: It is necessary. Selected Correspondence of Frederic Chopin. a cause was sought for it outside the suggestion implicit in the musical material itself. Despite his serious health condition. With the establishment of that nickname. Tell Pleyel to settle with Probst about the date of publication of the Préludes…. 423.. you and Wolff.1).Hand over my letter and the Préludes to Pleyel yourself. in my view baseless. he mentions the completion of the set. to consider the very well known anecdote of the rainstorm at Valldemosa which occurred during the soujourn in Majorca. The set as a whole was ready on 22 January of 1839 when Chopin wrote to Fontana: My dear friend.34 Even the famous anecdote about Chopin composing the socalled “Raindrop Prelude” inspired by a storm on the island is almost certainly a myth. Therefore. I am sending you the Préludes. the 34 Brown. but applies it. to be found in his Prelude No. not to the “Raindrop” Prelude at all. You should give the copy to Probst and my manuscript to Pleyel…In a week or two you will receive the Ballade.As Brown has shown. 167. without doubt a remarkable instance…of the aetiological legend. but to No. Polonaises and Scherzo.36 In his letters from November and December Chopin had implied his intentions and worries in finishing the Préludes. and also by Franz Liszt. Copy them out. I don’t think there are any mistakes. 13 . 15 in Db Major. while on January 22. 36 Chopin. The storm was supposed to be described by Chopin too: a musical description.35 However. The repeated pedal note Ab (=G# later) in the fifteenth Prelude inspired a nickname––it was called the “Raindrop” Prelude. of course. described in after-years with such a vivid and poetical pen by George Sand. in F# minor. Hence George Sand’s flowery story. 424.…Liszt takes over the rainstorm story. only four preludes can be attributed with certainty to Chopin’s stay in Majorca (see Table 1. Chopin finished composing the Préludes on the island as the following letter demonstrates. The assertion is. 8. his stay on the island is directly linked to the Préludes. We have here. even though facts about Majorca and the Préludes are insufficient and––as the “Raindrop” Prelude anecdote shows––exist often only behind the veil of Romanticized allusions.

Chopin published his Préludes first in Paris.41 37 Brown.” Journal of the Society of Musicology in Ireland 3 (2007–8): 25. Significance.delayed arrival of the piano. the Préludes. I am no longer under contract to Wessel in London so he can pay more. 14 .” in Chopin Studies. 424.––without opus number37––and entitled simply 24 Préludes pour le piano. In this letter he is discusses business matters in detail: Dear friend. has bought the German rights for Breitkopf for 1. 28: Genre. Jim Samson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.40 The omission of the opus number in the first publication––due to the fact that Chopin had forgotten which number had been reserved for the set––continued in England in 1840 when Wessel published the set without it and in France until as late as 1860. 1–12 and 13–24. 424. in June 1839. I finished them on your cottage piano which arrived in perfect condition in spite of the sea crossing.39 Breitkopf & Härtel published the Préludes in Germany in the same month as one set. I have instructed Fontana to hand over my manuscript. “Twenty-Four Preludes Op. 41 Ibid. This must have elevated his state of mind. Chopin had managed to finish his greatest work to that point.500 francs for the French and English rights. the bad weather and the Palma customs. I am asking 1. spreading the good news about his compositional results.38 In this publication. 1988). “Precursive Prolongation in the Préludes of Chopin. as you know. so that he wrote yet another letter on the same day to Camille Pleyel in Paris. for Pleyel by Adolphe Catelin Co. 38 William Sobaskie. ed. 39 Jean-Jaques Eigeldinger. Structure. 40 Brown.000. the preludes were split for “purely commercial reasons” into two volumes: nos. 167. I am sending you my Préludes. Probst. and the uncomfortable accommodations at the monastery. under the opus number 28.

this technique of “preluding” had became a standard practice. By the sixteenth century. either to be used again at a later time or for pedagogical use. Musicians wrote down preludes only occasionally. often concerned with a particular aspect of instrumental technique. so an instructive intention. The sole purpose of the “Praeludieren-practice” was to establish the key or mode for the succeeding work or composition. to ask for the listener’s attention in a musical way. to introduce vocal music at church. the surviving notated examples can only give a sample of this genre. remained an important part of the prelude. 2d ed. Praeludieren (lit. Because the prelude is in its very essence an improvisation. which had became essential to all keyboardists by the mid sixteenth century. to check the tuning of the instrument. “The purpose of notating improvisation was generally to provide models for students. “Prelude.” in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 20: 291–2. ed.”42 In German the term exists as a verb as well. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell... and all keyboard performers were expected to be able “to prelude” for church services as well as secular concerts. 20: 291.”43 42 David Ledbetter. or to loosen the fingers and warm up. 15 . 43 Ibid. the term prelude indicates “a piece that preceded other music whose mode or key it was designated to introduce.CHAPTER 2 HISTORY OF PRELUDES PRIOR TO CHOPIN Origins and Early Development In its original meaning.: to prelude) means to improvise or play an introduction to something. David Ledbetter writes.

Other sources include preludes for use in only one particular mode.48 Two types of textures can be identified in early keyboard preludes: simple sustained chords and florid passages. That means. 46 Edler. the pieces found in Ilebourgh’s collection called praeludia diversarum notarum (variously notated preludes) could be used on five different tones. the intention of practicing ascending and descending tenor motions.49 44 Arnfried Edler. they are written-out examples of introductions to be used or recycled on various tones. From about the same time date the keyboard preludes of Wolfgang de Nova Domo found in bonum fundamentum. 48 Ibid. In the so-called Buxheimer Orgelbuch (ca. Friedrich Blume and Ludwig Finscher. 47 Ibid. “Präludium. For instance.45 Ileborgh uses both terms Praeambula and Praeludia.46 The German musicologist Arnfried Edler points out that these early examples border between written-out improvisation and composition. 1793. Sachteil 7: 1793.The general practice of preluding is far older than any written manuscripts and goes back to the performance of epic dramas in the ancient orient. 292. The earliest surviving examples are five short preludes for keyboard in Adam Ileborgh’s tablature from 1448. at the end of Fundamentum organisandi. According to him. 1470) there are many preludes distinguished by completely different sections contrasting with one another. ed. 2d ed.47 These preludes most likely functioned as introductory warm-up exercises for succeeding compositions. 45 Ledbetter.44 In Western music preludes have been an integral part of keyboard music since the very beginning as introductory or improvisatory pieces. 16 .” in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. there are three preludes that can be used only in one particular mode and for one main purpose..

and are intended for use at home on a clavichord. 50 Edler. Because a prelude was originally an improvised introduction. 1470). was not tied to a particular form or texture. This is based on Pauman’s instructional Fundamentum organisandi (1452) and the Buxheimer Orgelbuch (ca. A virtuosic and brilliant prelude. Kotter. imitation. 1794. Ledbetter writes. 292. where prelude-type pieces generally bore other titles (Intonazione. and thus. and passages of antiphony between voices. 17 .51 This foreshadows the sectional organ praeludia of the Baroque with their alternating sections. “From the later sixteenth century the term praeludium and its cognates were not commonly used in southern Germany. It is impossible and pointless to try to draw a line between preludes and contemporaneous improvisatory pieces that bear other titles. 292.”52 49 Ledbetter. nor in Italy and Spain. Early sixteenth-century examples include the preludes of H. might have been called a toccata.During the sixteenth century. and Prooemium. 51 Ledbetter. Harmonia. for instance. Intrada. a composer from south-west Germany. Toccata). it could include different musical styles. The pieces in his tablatures (ca. 1513) represent Renaissance trends in two ways––seeking inspiration from the ancient Classics and providing music for an increasing bourgeois––for his preludes bear Greek and Latin titles such as Anabol.50 Kotter’s preludes begin to show sections of light imitation with passages of antiphony between voices. often with sequential patterns. the improvisatory character of the prelude gave way to a more rigid structure. 52 Ibid. Ricercare. while a piece distinguished by imitation might have been titled ricercare.

and are highly virtuosic. Snyder. neither to words nor to a melodic subject. Tunder. and Weckmann. there are free improvisatory sections with toccata-like figurations alternating with contrapuntal ones. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell. and Kapsberger. Froberger. In 1650 Athanasius Kircher described the stylus phantasticus. ed. It is the most free and unrestrained method of composing. 4:700. This development saw its climax in the works of Buxtehude (ca.. it is bound to nothing. These pieces represent the North German stylus phantasticus. He writes. 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 fantastic style is suitable for instruments. and at times very chromatic. The general structure can be outlined as follows: Opening Improvisatory Section (I)—First Fugue (F)—Remaining Sections 53 Kerala J. His multi-sectional praeludia make full use of the organ. 1637–1707) who worked as organist and Werckmeister in Lübeck from 1668–1707. a style that displays great virtuosity and juxtaposes free improvisation with careful planning. His organ preludes are of considerable length. 2d ed.53 With Buxtehude. “Buxtehude.Preludes during the Baroque The development of seventeenth-century preludes was distinguished by the instruments for which they were written. figurative. Their works were distinguished by sectional contrasts between free improvisatory and strict fugal sections.” 18 . complicated in structure. and it is hard to put them into one category. the truly virtuosic. it was instituted to display genius and to teach the hidden design of harmony and the ingenious composition of harmonic phrases and fugues. especially the pedals. The number of sections and overall structure vary. The German large-scale praeludium pedaliter originated with the works of Scheidemann.” in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. and highly imaginative organ music with an extreme use of pedals developed to an unprecedented level. While improvisatory keyboard pieces continued to be written in the south by composers like Frescobaldi. complex. Typically.

Louis Couperin. in concerts. a distinction can be made between the pieces ending in a fugal section (I—F––…F). Generally. This is based on the music found in the manuscripts of Lespine and Lord Herbert. explanation for the emergence of the unmeasured prelude. Seventeenth-century France saw the emergence of a very distinctive prelude type. preludes became rhythmically freer and looser until composers responded to this trend with an unmeasured notation. Denis Gaultier. It is very likely that this tuning process became gradually more elaborate and resulted in improvising a prelude-type introduction. The unmeasured prelude might have emerged from an increasingly elaborated tuning practice for the lute. 292. 54 Ledbetter. but I—F—I—F. In that case. This unusual type of prelude has been linked to two origins. 19 . This genre was fostered by the most important French composers including Jacques Champion de Chambonières. and Jean Henri D’Anglebert. for. During this tuning process they might have tried out the instrument. the so-called unmeasured prelude.Many pieces have the following sequence. Purcell employed long and advanced preludes as found in the fifth suite from Musick’s Hand-maide. and more recent. and even I—F—F— I preludes can be found.54 This theory is based on the fact that since about 1620. Ledbetter suggests that there is a second. playing scales and other figurations. there was a rhythmic loosening in French preludes in general. and the ones ending with the improvisatory one (I—F––…I). lutenists tuned before beginning to play. I—F—I—F—I. while Handel mainly composed shorter works distinguished by figurations such as scale-passages and arpeggios. This prelude is distinguished by a lack of rhythmic notation leaving the execution of rhythm to the performer. Nicolas Antoine Lebegue. England fostered the prelude genre with the works of Henry Purcell and George Frederick Handel.

1797.56 The notation of unmeasured preludes is distinguished by a succession of slurred whole notes. 56 Ibid.57 At the beginning of the eighteenth century. ed. “Rameau. both in terms of variety of styles as well as in quality. dating from about 1630. Only a well-trained musician is able to interpret and play these preludes. 2d ed.59 J. Jean–Philippe. both in its compositional quality and in its range of styles. “Prélude non mesuré. S. French composers returned to writing out preludes in strict rhythm. 59 The first example of a prelude preceding a solo instrumental dance suite is Chancy’s Tablature de mandore from 1629. 20 . manners and formal 55 Davitt Moroney. Examples are the dance suites by the French clavicinists. One of the last unmeasured preludes was published as part of J. there are few pianists who know how to interpret these freely written scores that lack any indications of rhythm. preludes were used as introductory pieces to suites. Rameau’s Premier Livre. 20:294. Bach. “With Bach the prelude reached the pinnacle of its development.58 The prelude genre continued to exist in the form of introductory pieces to begin dance suites. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell. 57 Edler. 58 Graham Sadler.. S. Even at the time. playing unmeasured preludes was considered to be difficult to understand.” in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Bach brought the prelude genre to its apotheosis.Since the the earliest examples of written out non-measured preludes for lute.” in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. P. a collection of dance pieces for harpsichord. Nicolas Lebègue mentions in the introduction to his Les pièces de clavicin: “la grande difficultè de render cette metode de preluder” (lit. 20:787. Throughout the Baroque. and the English Suites and Partitas by J. In some of these preludes there are two free and unmeasured sections framing a middle section in strict rhythm.55 the genre became popular in French music and lasted for about seventy years. ed.. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell. Ledbetter writes. This is the case in four preludes of Louis Couperin’s Pièces de clavecin. and today. He refers to five short unmeasured preludes in the lute manuscript of Virginia Renata intended for various tunings. 2d ed.: the great difficulty to perform this method of preluding).

21 . 293. the “first to provide keyboard examples in all 24 keys. Ledbetter writes that particularly Bach’s pupils.” 63 Ledbetter.”62 Preludes during the Classical Era Preludes continued to be composed after Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier. trans. 61 Ibid. continued to foster the genre. They range from toccata-like to lyrical aria-like pieces. the prelude’s 60 Ibid. 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. It was the most complete catalogue of preludes written up to that point. With the two volumes of the Well-tempered Clavier (1722 and 1742).prototypes. “Here [in the Well-tempered Clavier] Bach created new types of preludes. but functions as a synthesis of prelude styles.”61 The preludes in Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier are examples for many compositional prototypes. and from pieces covering specific technical problems to large-scale binary forms in the second book of the Well-tempered Clavier. 293. 1800. Bach provided a catalogue of preludes demonstrating the sheer variety of styles and forms within the genre. Edler writes. which must be explained as synthesized forms of various traditions.63 However. especially sonatas and rondos. “Hier … bildete Bach neue Typen des Präludiums … aus. although not his sons. and which form a catalogue of encyclopedic character. Having been one of the most essential genres of keyboard literature during the Baroque and before. and according to Ledbetter. die als synthetische Bildungen aus unterschiedlichen Gattungstraditionen zu erklären sind und der Sammlung als ganzer einen enzyklopädischen Charakter verleihen.. Andreas Boelcke.”60 Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier demonstrates not only the new tuning systems that allowed one to play in all twenty-four keys. 62 Edler.

Imre Sulyok (Budapest: Editio Musica Budapest. W. Mozart. it is nothing more but a sketch that Mozart might have done when experimenting with the unmeasured prelude tradition. With the disappearance of dance suites. A. J. It begins in F Major and ends in E Major. entitled Praeludium. This piece has been published as facsimile without a Köchel number. Martini and Giuiseppe Sarti were more commonly called fantasia. also catalogued as KV6:284a) from 1777––all of which have been lost––and the Prelude and Fugue in C. remaining in some of them for only two measures.64 If one looks at the output of the three great composers of the Classical era––F. interesting as this discovery may be. published under Op. Both preludes begin and end in the key of C. descending sequences. A. ed. Both preludes move quickly through all keys. 1976). In 1789 Beethoven composed Zwei Präludien durch alle Dur-Tonarten für das Pianoforte oder die Orgel (Two Preludes through all Major Keys for the Piano or the Organ). an enthusiastic collector of the music of Bach. Praeludium. Mozart. and thirty-second note figurations. 22 . 65 W.65 The lack of both bar lines and meter indication in this piece is reminiscent of an unmeasured prelude. The few examples by Mozart include the 4 Preludes in C (K395/300g. Haydn. working their way through the circle of fifths. This short Praeludium is distinguished by ascending broken triads. Pieces introducing sonatas such as those by G. composed after he had been exposed to Bach’s music by the nobleman Baron Gottfried van Swieten. 39. However. These written-out warm-up exercises––allowing the student to become familiar with all key-signatures within one piece––foreshadow the exercise-like preludes of Chopin’s contemporaries such as Kalkbrenner and Hummel. A. In 1976 Editio Musica Budapest published a one-page piece by W. B. preludes as introductory pieces also vanished. and Beethoven––the last genre coming to one’s mind would be preludes. The few contributions to the prelude genre by Mozart and Beethoven show only the prolificacy of the two composers in all 64 Ibid. Mozart.status as a popular performance genre changed to that of mere pedagogical exercises.

and the return of previously stated sections. but also introductions. The heavy contrapuntal and chromatic textures of the Baroque did not fit with the aesthetics of the style galant. simplicity. and symmetry. variations on given themes. It is certain that Mozart and Beethoven improvised not only cadenzas. rondos. and fantasias. The emergence of new keyboard genres––sonatas. Whereas the prelude had been one of the most important keyboard genres during the Baroque. The decline of the church as a main patron brought upon a decreased use of the organ. and transparent in its formal design. whereas the rise of the fortepiano led to a decreased use of the harpsichord. not as notated compositions. thus “preludes. The preluding practice continued only to serve purely practical purposes. In secular concerts. During the Baroque most preludes had been written for harpsichord or organ.” But the lack of notated examples from the Classical period shows that preludes had lost their place of prominence in keyboard literature. sets of theme and variations. In church it was continued to introduce the service or the congregational singing. Music of the mid to late eighteenth century was distinguished by motivic development. lightness. occasionally fantasias. contrasting thematic groups. both of which decreased in popularity during the eighteenth century. 23 . The music in demand had to be clearly structured. it survived merely in form of short improvised introductions to major works. however. the need to introduce music with improvisations further declined with the increased use of written-out introductions to sonatas and symphonies––a development that further edged out any need for the preluding practice. easy to recognize for the listener. due not only to the change of instruments but also to the cultural and social changes of the late-eighteenth century. and piano concertos––is. easy to understand.genres of music but do not represent their full compositional capabilities nor account for a development of the prelude tradition.

such as Mendelssohn’s Six Preludes and Fugues for piano. 1 (2008): 109. preludes continued to be improvised. 35 (1832–7). Brahms’s two preludes and fugues for organ (1856–7). In addition to these published examples.” Tijdschrift voor Musiektheorie 13. In his essay “Functions and Performance Practice of Improvised Nineteenth-Century Preludes. 67 Shane Levesque. no. Op. Franck’s Prélude. and Reger’s Prelude and Fugue for violin. “The attached prelude reappeared in a number of Bach-influenced works. but were written for pedagogical use. there was a rediscovery and a renewed interest in the prelude genre. Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1814–15).”66 The preludes attached to fugues are clearly an homage to Bach and the Baroque era.Revival of Preludes in the Nineteenth Century During the nineteenth century.” he shows that the prelude genre continued as a form of improvisation. and Friedrich Kalkbrenner (1827). 1820). Johan Baptist Cramer (1818). however were intended for a performance or the concert stage. He goes even so far to claim that the prelude was one of the “most widely cultivated keyboard genres of the nineteenth century:”67 66 Ledbetter. The few sets of preludes include those by Muzio Clementi (1811. the number of published preludes seems nevertheless small in comparison to the Baroque Era. 293. 24 . Although there was a nineteenthcentury prelude revival.” He continues. “Functions and Performance Practice of Improvised Nineteenth-Century Preludes. 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. however. Op. Liszt’s Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H (1855). choral et fugue for piano (1884). Ledbetter writes that “the 19th century’s awakening interest in music of earlier times encouraged a revival of forms that had fallen into disuse. rev. 117. None of these.

113. Johann Joachim Quantz.Ask a pianist to name one composer who wrote piano preludes in the nineteenth century. Liszt.”69 Comparing the art of nineteenth-century improvising with that of the eighteenth century.. the Mendelssohns. as they improvised (rather than composed) many of their own preludes.68 Levesque shows that preludes continued to be an integral part of performing at a time when pianists cared for establishing and maintaining a direct connection to the audience––in contrast to today’s pianists who seem to only “connect with their composers’ intentions. 70 Ibid. Brahms. 69 Ibid. Antonio Soler. Levesque points out that the interest in this mastery did not decrease. nineteenth-century improvisation instructions were gradually emancipated from a prerequisite understanding of continuo realization and some do not employ figured bass numerals. and others––would seem to suggest that they all composed very few works. preludes. typically listing a handful of composers who wrote twenty-four in every major and minor key. This is true. and undoubtedly nearly all will respond with Chopin. Beethoven.70 Improvising introductions and thus. 109. ask them to name a second composer and most will likely draw a blank.. unique to each piece and each performance.. and Daniel Gottlob Türk. Whereas seventeenth. 110. Pianists made use of this practice wherever they performed. the reverse approach can be obtained from many nineteenth-century treatises. Surveying the composition lists of the major Romantic composer pianists––Clementi. only the way it was executed. It is almost certain that extraordinary composer-pianists such as Liszt and Chopin improvised dozens of preludes without writing them 68 Ibid. in this genre. the Schumanns. However.and eighteenth-century treatises first lay a harmonic groundwork with figured bass progressions to which keyboard figurations can later be applied in the improvisation of preludes. just like Bach. He writes: Unlike those found in the earlier treatises of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. 25 . if any. continued during the nineteenth century. which are largely exhaustive compendiums of virtuosic figurations that can be applied to harmonic progressions studied either concurrently or later. Definitions of the piano prelude are marginalized in many music encyclopedias as nothing more than short character pieces.

“Chopin did not compose only twenty-six preludes. and publishing his best examples in twenty-four major and minor keys. With Chopin’s Préludes. Rachmaninoff.. Debussy. Those preludes published at the time are merely technical exercises or notated examples for the instruction on how introduce other pieces. Since its publication in 1839 it has inspired and greatly influenced subsequent composers of the nineteenth and twentieth century.” 26 . 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. notating. but likely improvised hundreds: revising.71 Nevertheless. in the early nineteenth century. the genre became once again one of the most popular and prominent ones in piano literature. there were no publications of preludes that could compare with Chopin’s Opus 28. Thus. He writes. 109.down. Chopin’s set of preludes stands as a turning point in the development of the genre. Skryabin. and Shostakowitch. 71 Ibid. Kabalevsky. all composed sets of twenty-four preludes.

Debussy. and Shostakovich. for he was the first composer to compose a set of preludes for the concert stage. Chopin’s set of twenty-four preludes is a contribution to the genre on a different level. Chopin used an old keyboard genre to move into a new direction. Chopin and the Baroque Chopin was well aware of eighteenth-century music and admired the masters of the Baroque. 28 broke with all contemporaneous preludes and paved the road for his successors including Scriabin. Rachmaninoff. Chopin’s break with contemporaneous sets of preludes by Hummel. Entirely set apart from contemporaneous exercise-like pieces by Hummel. and Cramer. Bach’s two books of the Well-tempered Clavier. and Clementi will be explained. All the popular sets of Romantic and twentieth-century preludes are indebted to Chopin. Highly influenced by one of the seminal keyboard compilations in history. “The Public has to think of itself lucky if from time to time 27 . 28––especially those from the Well-tempered Clavier. Chopin’s Op.CHAPTER 3 BAROQUE TRENDS AND THE CREATION OF THE ROMANTIC PRELUDE TRADITION Chopin’s set of twenty-four preludes is the link between the Baroque tradition and the many piano preludes of the Romantic era and its aftermath. Kalkbrenner. he wrote. This chapter will demonstrate that Chopin looked back to the Baroque while simultaneously breaking entirely with his own time. On 30 July 1840. Following a discussion of some neo-Baroque elements in Op. Kalkbrenner. for it uses Baroque elements introducing the idea of the modern piano prelude composed for the concert stage.

” My translation. 3. at different dynamic levels. 190. 28 . The homorhythmic structure in this prelude. Fig. de la 9e Sinfonia a trios voix ou de la 21e des Variations Goldberg. 73 Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger. 28 show his interest in eighteenth-century music.”72 The many traces of Baroque elements throughout Op. 1979). which seem to have derived directly from the Crucifixus of the Bminor Mass. “Autour de Preludes de Chopin” (Concerning the Chopin preludes). Chopin fait usage de se même symbolisme dans les Préludes 4 et 20 qui semblent deriver directement du Cruzifixus de la Messe en si. and in the twenty-first of the Goldberg Variations. the chromatically descending bass line. Chopin takes advantage of this doctrine. Arthur Hedley (New York: Da Capo Press. des cantatas Weinen. Klagen and Jesu der du meine Seele. Eigeldinger points at the similarities between Chopin’s descending bass line in this prelude and the works of Bach. In his article Autour de Preludes de Chopin (Concerning the Chopin preludes).1 Prelude No. mm. the dotted eight72 Fryderik Chopin. d’affliction. the ninth three-part Invention.73 According to the Baroque doctrine of affections. Chopin made use of this same symbolism in the Preludes Nos. 5–8. “Bach avait hérité de Monteverdi et des Madrigalists la ligne chromatique descendante comme symbole de tristesse. music has the power to move human emotions by use of specific musical devices such as the choice of key or. This short prelude consists of a choralelike passage repeated two times. Klagen. He writes: “Bach had inherited from Monteverdi and the madrigalists the descending chromatique line as a symbol of sadness and is allowed to hear a bit of Händel or Bach. in this case. the cantatas Weinen. Selected Correspondence. 4 and 20. The chromatically descending bass line and inner voices in the example recall Baroque chorale-style writing. neo-Baroque elements can be found in the chorale-like texture of the C-minor prelude. 20 in C minor. et Jesu de du meine Seele. ed. Revue Musicale de Suisse Romande 25 (1972): 5. For instance.

notes in the right hand––reminiscent of funeral march rhythm––combined 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. 9–10, to
quintuplets 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 recitatif secco of the Baroque.
Fig. 3.2 Prelude No. 18 in F minor, mm. 9–13.


Of all the Baroque composers, it was J. S. Bach, in particular, that occupied Chopin’s
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.74 There is further proof
that Chopin thoroughly studied and edited Bach’s 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 Bach––not that I have any pretensions to a deeper understanding, but
I am convinced that I sometimes hit on the right answer.”75 Chopin appreciated Bach’s works
also as exercises for pianists. On 31 October 1844 he closes his letter to Mlle de Rozières simply
with the salutation, “Practice a little Bach for me.”76
Considering Chopin’s admiration for Bach it is not surprising that the Préludes were
greatly influenced by the two books of the Well-tempered Clavier. Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger
writes, “Bach’s influence on the Préludes, as on Chopin’s music in general, is infinitely more
powerful and subtle than that of any of the post-classical composers.”77 Comparing the first
prelude of Bach’s WTC and Chopin’s Opus 28, he writes:
Through a succession of what strikes the listener as waves of sound, Chopin’s complex
notation, with the help of the sustaining pedal, may be taken as an instinctive, stylized
development of the “brisé” lute writing of which Bach’s piece is an obvious example.
This detail is enough on its own to substantiate Chopin’s debt to Bach.78


Chopin, Selected Correspondence, 165.


Ibid., 181–2.


Ibid., 241.


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

Ibid., 175.


Fig. 3.3 Prelude No. 1 in C Major, mm. 1–6.

The example shows the waves of sound sustained by the damper pedal. The harmonic rhythm
here is reminiscent of Bach’s 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 the
descending, chromatic movement of three independent lines; superimposed lines which
represent Chopin’s response to the harmonic polyphony of the “Crucifixus” from the B
minor Mass. In writing this elegy in E minor, Chopin had recourse to the key traditionally
associated with lamentation in the Baroque catalogue of affects.79
About Bach’s influence on Chopin’s set as a whole, Eigeldinger writes:
The transfigured imprint of Bach in the twenty-four preludes is to be seen most clearly in
their texture; powerful and new as this is, the harmony is often clearly the result of
superimposed lines. Many of the pieces are built from a polymelodic texture of the most
inventive kind, and very long way from the neo-Baroque counterpoint practiced at this
same 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 Chopin’s C-Major
prelude. In her dissertation, she writes that in both pieces “a melodic line is drawn from a short


Ibid., 176.


Ibid., 175.


The most important sets of nineteenth-century preludes published prior to Chopin’s opus 28 are shown in Table 3. 1994). 19–21. “Reflexionen über den Beginn der Musik: Eine neue Deutung von Frédéric Chopins Préludes op. New York University. wasting nothing. but also a revolutionary change in the history of preludes. Therefore it is fair to say that Chopin revitalized the Prelude tradition. but also how to economize.83 Chopin’s Op. 28).1. 100.”82 There is no scholar who would disagree or deny that there is a major influence of Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier (WTC) on Chopin’s work. 82 Edgar Stillman Kelley.motivic figuration which also generates a harmonic progression.D. 32 . Bach. ed. Christoph-Hellmut Mahling and Kristina Pfarr (Eurasburg: Hans Schneider Tutzing. diss. “Chopin had not only learned the art of development from Bach…. it was also the first publication of highly sophisticated preludes since the Baroque. 28” (Reflections on the beginning of music: A new interpretation of Frédéric Chopin’s Préludes op. 127–8. it is essential to take a closer look at the contemporaneous publications of preludes. Schirmer. 81 Yunjoo Kang. 28. “The Chopin Preludes Opus 28: An Eclectic Analysis with Performance Guide” (Ph. Chopin: The Composer (New York: G.”81 Edgar Stillman Kelley also explains Bach’s influence. 1913). Contemporaneous Sets of Preludes Chopin’s set was not only the first major contribution to the prelude genre in all twentyfour keys since Bach. 1996). To understand Chopin’s drastic break in style. he even took a copy of the WTC with him to Majorca where he composed at least some of his Préludes. in Deutsche Musik im Wegkreuz zwischen Polen und Frankreich (German music as an intersection between Poland and France). for he utilized to the utmost his thematic material. was not only highly influenced by J. 83 Anselm Gerhard.. S. After all.

1761–1819) 12 Preludes 1804 Daniel Steibelt (1765–1823) Trois preludes ou caprices pour le forte-piano 1806 Muzio Clementi (1752–1832) Preludes and Exercises 1811. 33 . 1820 Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778–1837) 24 Preludes Op. Clementi’s Preludes and Exercises is subtitled “School of Scales” and is clearly a method book with music not intended for the concert stage.Table 3. Composer Title Publication Date Bernard Viguerie (c.84 The number of preludes for each exercise ranges from none to 84 The C-Major exercise is preceded by five preludes.1 Publications of preludes in the early nineteenth century. whereas only one prelude introduces the D-Minor exercise. 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. 67 1814–15 Johan Baptist Cramer (1771–1858) Twenty six preludes or short introductions in the principal major & minor keys for the piano forte Friedrich Kalkbrenner (1785–1849) 24 préludes dans tous les tons 1818 1827 A closer look at these publications shows that they are not concert pieces but exercises for pedagogical use. rev.

F–d. Clementi starts in C Major. Starting with the key of E minor. The preludes are exercises reminiscent of Czerny’s etudes. Although every major key is followed by its relative minor––just as in Chopin’s set––the order of keys is unorthodox. the first pair of preludes has no accidentals.…. This procedure continues through all major and minor keys until the set closes with F# major and Eb minor. followed by a move by one fifth upwards from C (to G). the fifth one has two sharps. the second one has one flat. having been exposed to different types of preludes at the beginning of the set. G–e. In short: C–a. That would also explain why the first etudes have several different preludes as models for improvisation. Kalkbrenner’s set of twenty-four preludes in all the major and minor keys is clearly for teaching purposes as well. This eleven-page piece begins in B minor in 34 . That leaves the last six exercises without preludes.five. the second one is in F Major and D minor. After that he moves in succession one fifth downwards from C (to F). Those exercises preceded by several preludes leave the student with a choice of which to use. and so on. there are no preludes anymore. followed by one in Bb Major and G minor. starting with C Major and C minor. That means. distinguished by parallel scale. Clementi has organized the preludes and exercises neither chromatically––as Bach did in the Well-tempered Clavier––nor according to the ascending circle of fifths. followed by Db Major and C# minor. Therefore. The preludes are organized chromatically. the fourth one has two flats. the first set of preludes and exercises is in C Major and A minor. Clementi most likely encouraged the student to begin improvising the introductions as he moved through the method book. Since the number of preludes decreases from five to zero. The last prelude. the third one has one sharp. and so on. and broken chord. Eb–c. the third one in G Major and E minor. stands out. D–b. gradually has to leave the printed page and improvise on his own. Bb–g. movement in both hands. there is only one prelude to each exercise and after the key of Db major. In this case the student. in B minor.

67 is the most commonly quoted example of twenty-four preludes published prior to Chopin. 67. either moving parallel in both hands. the piece closes with a Presto-section. these preludes are not independent pieces to be grouped for performance or played as a whole set.4/4 time marked Agitato. However. 35 . at the end of a catalogue of exercises. for useful usage by students). The piece is further distinguished by a short four-voice fugato and several drastic texture changes. each major key followed by its relative minor. Hummel’s Op. Following a slow middle-section in 3/4 time in the key of F# minor. The preludes. Hummel’s 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. in all twenty-four major and minor keys. according to the ascending circle of fifths. is an attempt to expose the student to a variety of keyboard writing styles. but are not concert pieces to be selected for a performance. “24 Preludes. 195. Op. However.” The Complete Works for Piano (New York: Garland Publishing. The only similarity to Chopin’s set of twenty-four preludes is the tonal organization. 85 Johann Nepomuk Hummel. almost all in rapid tempos with scalar motions. Hummel’s purpose for this group of exercises is made clear by its title: Vorspiele für das Piano–Forte: Vor dem Anfange eines Stückes aus allen 24 Dur und mol Tonarten zum nützlichen Gebrauch für Schüler (Preludes for the piano-forte: for “before-the-beginning” of a piece. or in the right hand over sustained chords. it would certainly not make a good performance piece. 1989). back in 4/4 time in the original key. are reminiscent of warm-up exercises. This prelude.85 These twenty-four preludes are cadenza-like sketches to be played before a piece in the given key. with its awkward abrupt changes in style and texture.

The Florida State University. 45 (London: C.M. Op. The sheer emotional variety within the set is so striking 86 Robert Schumann. (2007–8): 1. Some of the preludes are cast in binary and ternary form. 2003). Chopin juxtaposes extreme contrasts and stylistic differences throughout the set to an extent that the listener does not know what will come next. “Analysis of the Chopin Preludes. 28 has not lost its provocative qualities. 28. Peters. there is striking stylistic and emotional variety and the pieces are unpredictable. many of these miniatures lack a traditional form.”88 There are several reasons for this provocation. Opus 28” (M. 36 . In contrast. 91. In 2007 James William Sobaskie wrote. Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 41 (November 1839): 163. for they range from Mazurka-like miniatures (A-Major prelude) to tremendously difficult full-scale etudes (Bb-minor prelude). 88 James William Sobaskie. Scholars and performers alike have tried to explain why Chopin’s set of preludes is so revolutionary and provocative. Chopin’s twenty-four preludes are highly sophisticated concert pieces that have remained in the standard repertory of pianists since their first publication. the Préludes of Frédéric Chopin never fail to provoke us. Edward N. which lacks any melody or recognizable form. 1963). First. Chopin Préludes. there is the Eb-Major prelude. light in a simple ternary form. 87 Franz Liszt. cheerful. “Brief as they may be. 1968).” trans. 14.” in Journal of the Society of Musicology in Ireland 3. Schumann initially expressed his bewilderment. “Precursive Prolongation in the Préludes of Chopin. Chopin’s Op. For instance after the threatening and furious F minor prelude. quoted in Jean-Jaques Eigeldinger. but there are several that stand out as a short single musical idea in one-part form. “Frédéric Chopin. Op.87 Even today.Chopin’s Préludes in Comparison to Contemporaneous Sets of Preludes The early nineteenth-century preludes by composers like Hummel and Kalkbrenner are short pieces intended for pedagogical use. Waters (New York: Macmillan.89 Second. 89 Ronald Eugene Cole. thesis.86 but in 1841 Franz Liszt called the collection as a unique class governed by its own rules. 4. F.

28 as poetic Préludes. 91 Sobaskie. its ability to begin a story without finishing it at the last line or start one in the middle and lead to an inevitable conclusion.93 Analyzing half of the Préludes. 28. Sobaskie explains the relationship between Chopin’s preludes and poetry as follows: Chopin may have been inspired by the example of poetry when composing his Préludes. alliteration or assonance. 93 Ibid. “Describing the contents of Chopin’s Op.”92 The beauty about poetry is that it can imply things that cannot be directly said.” He continues. This is the case with Chopin’s Op. poetry can evoke imaginations beyond the realms of regular speech. Sobaskie recalls that both Robert Schumann and Franz Liszt were moved to invoke the metaphor of poetry. A Reader’s Guide to the Chopin Preludes (London: Greenwood Press.. 14. its power to suggest more than it says. to convey more than their surfaces connote—in short. 1994). he [Franz Liszt] acknowledged their capacity to engage the imagination. a veritable museum of the expressive possibilities opening up to the composer in Chopin’s century. to stimulate expectation. that is reminiscent of poetry. there are “twenty-four distinct moods. 92 Ibid. there is an unmistakable seductiveness to Chopin’s music. Just as verbal implication in poetry. 26. he demonstrates musical types of allusion. As Jeffrey Kresky writes.”90 The third reason for their uniqueness is their poetic quality. a brief idea or a feeling expressed at the piano. That means. tonal implication has the power to elicit 90 Jeffrey Kresky. as well as a certain vocality. While one finds nothing analogous to syllabic patterns. to provoke aesthetic responses akin to those of verse. rhyme schemes. 27 37 . perhaps emulating its capacity for nuance.that each prelude functions as a unique emotional statement.91 He writes. “The group as a whole may stand almost as a summary of the imaginable mood types available to the romantic composer. each in miniature. This may begin to explain why we have found the Préludes so provocative—and endlessly intriguing. especially tonal implication.

38 ..94 While inspired by Bach’s works and the Baroque tradition. 28. However. Chopin’s Préludes stand apart from contemporaneous publications not only in their sophistication and compositional quality. 28 stands out in one more way.expectation and to arouse anticipation and inspire imagination. but in their lack of traditional form. it provokes aesthetic responses in engaged listeners. In short. 94 Ibid. and poetry-like allusions. The Préludes are a coherent cycle of works unified on several levels. emotional variety. Chopin’s Op. They were the first and only publication of serious concert pieces within this genre at the time.

who is known for grouping his compositions in clusters according to genre. scherzos. when listening to “The Waltzes. or even performed together. In the introduction to A Reader’s Guide to the Chopin Preludes. For instance. nocturnes. Kresky writes. Jeffrey Kresky writes. published together. are distinguished by their virtuosity and the tremendous demand on the pianist. however. or one (in twenty-four parts)––is not just interesting. they do not make musical sense when grouped randomly. waltzes. They follow a succession of keys that bonds them together. and long-breathed melodies––in some pieces a night-like. 1994). most of them in rapid tempos. gloomy and dark mood. and etudes. ballades. When performed in order. stand out within Chopin’s oeuvre. such as mazurkas. though presenting a remarkable variety in mood. The Nocturnes share the lyrical. The Etudes. Kresky points out that these sets. 39 .”95 In an attempt to answer this question. but perhaps unique. The Mazurkas. they seem to belong to each other. xiv. more than the chromatically ascending preludes and fugues of Bach’s WTC. The Préludes. Kresky compares the Préludes to other sets of Chopin. “The move of 95 Jeffrey Kresky. or in contrary.CHAPTER 4 NOTION OF COHERENCE IN OPUS 28 General Coherence Elements There are several reasons why one perceives the Préludes as a unified composition when listening to the entire set.” one would never perceive these groups as an organic unit. but rather as individual pieces that have nothing but the genre in common.” or “The Nocturnes. recorded. resemble each other in the Polish dance character. A Reader’s Guide to the Chopin Preludes (London: Greenwood Press. “The question of the organic unity and status of the collection––are these preludes twenty-four pieces. impromptus. constitute a list rather than an extended composition.

1 in C Major. in a different context as the first melody note in the A-minor prelude. 98 Ibid. mm. after the dark and slow moving left-hand accompaniment introduces the piece. 2 in A minor. and the like. mm. but the move up is not tonal in any usual sense.2 Prelude No. as a shifting or adjustment of mode. E4 resounds in the right hand. 40 .”98 This can be observed already at the very beginning of the set.”96 Chopin has arranged his Préludes in a less catalogue-like but more musical way. xv..28–33. 4. Fig. chords. Fig. A comparison of the two examples shows that the final note E4 in the soprano of the C-Major prelude––emphasized by the fermata––resounds. 4. where the second prelude in A minor is directly linked to the first one in C Major. 1–4. so that the route through these keys will seem itself musical. keys a half step apart having pretty much nothing in common in normal tonal ways. This might be analogous to the same character of a theater play finding himself in a 96 Ibid. “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. The soprano ends on E4.1 Prelude No. 97 Ibid.major to parallel minor may well be heard in compositional terms.97 Kresky points out.

1.1 lists all instances of re-soundings of common tones between the ending and beginnings of two successive preludes.”99 Table 4. in Bb Major –– 22. G Minor Table 4. in Eb Major –– 20. in G Major –– 4.1 All instances of resounding tones between two successive preludes. Chopin is careful to not exaggerate these special resoundings of last notes as new first notes. Kresky points out. enforcing an even flow of convincing naturalness. in F Minor 19. in G# Minor 17. in B Major –– 12.1 shows that there are six such instances. but seem instead to lurk under the surface. Table 4. Another factor with an even greater and more obvious impact on the overall coherence is the use of contrasts between pieces. in C Minor 21. in A Minor 3. Whereas the preludes and fugues in the WTC comprise a catalogue-like organization––there are no compelling balances or flow as the pieces progress–– 99 Ibid. in E Minor 11. the connections between these coupled preludes give the impression of a continuous flow from one piece to another. in Ab Major –– 18. spread throughout the entire set. these possibilities are not compositionally exploited by the composer.completely different setting or state of mind. “Indeed. in C Major –– 2. When performed as a set. 41 .

find that far more subtle relations are “sometimes detectable. we can conceive of these preludes as occupying just such a middle position. that Chopin’s Préludes form a quite unique musical organism. therefore. “Motivic recurrences of this kind are lacking across the Chopin preludes. intensity.”101 He does. one being a consequence of the other. length. With these observations he concludes: I conclude. scholars have posed different theories to the possibility of organic unity. however. xvii.the preludes in Chopin’s set seem to fit together. 102 Ibid. of perhaps too brief otherwise to stand on their own. much like. resounding of common tones. say. 14 in Eb minor which is embedded in between the long and lyrical Preludes in F# Major and Db Major. scope. He writes. 100 Ibid. 42 . xvii–xviii. 19 in Eb Major. “In the Chopin Préludes we find the greatest care taken to assure that a piece of one stark type is followed by a striking and refreshing contrast. the sense in which a society of ants or coral formations is viewed as being simultaneously a collection of individuals and a super-organism of many small parts. 18 in F minor followed by the pure and cheerful Prelude No. Another instance is the furious and restless Prelude No.”100 One only has to think of the extremely short and agitated Prelude No. 101 Ibid. D4 moving up to E4. and in the intended order. in terms of mood. But each works best along with the others. the mirrored motion of what had been repeatedly stated in the previous prelude. and stark contrasts from one prelude to another.” as for instance the fact that E4 at the beginning of the second prelude moves down to D4. In his search for motivic relations between individual preludes. Kresky points out. If in such instances biologists can describe each ant as more individual than the cells or organs of one higher animal. but less complete than one higher animal. Kresky could not find any obvious connections. Individually they seem like pieces in their own right.102 In search for other cohesive elements beyond the tonal organization..

A. the core only three. University of Cincinnati. Opus 16. Since Chominski’s work has not been translated from Polish into English. Table 4. and the third section nine. 16–24. from Nos. The nocturne-like Preludes Nos.2 Chominski’s large-scale outline of the Préludes.Chominski’s Large-Scale Plan In 1950 the Polish Chopin specialist Jósef M. “The Preludes Opus 28 by Fryderyk Chopin with Emphasis on Polish Sources” (D. 1950) quoted in Janet Marie Lopinski. Nos. 109. in which the slow group. 43 . 1–12.104 Table 4. 1990). and Kreisleriana. These two core preludes frame the short and agitated prelude No. 16–24 The first part of Chominski’s three part form contains twelve preludes. Preludes Nos. 13–15. Chominski linked this large-scale design of the Chopin Préludes to that of a nocturne with the exception that the sections are reversed: in a typical nocturne there would be two slow outer sections framing a faster middle section. This central core is shown in more detail in Table 4.M.3. consisting of the Preludes Nos. Chominski. Chominski compared the Préludes to Robert Schumann’s cycles such as Carnaval. 14 in 103 Jósef M. Opus 9. series of miniatures grouped together to compare a large-scale form. my discussion of his ideas are based on Lopinski’s thesis in which she explains and summarizes his ideas. 28 as a largescale three part form.103 He suggested that there is coherence on a deep macro level. lasting almost four minutes each. forms the central core. 13–15. whereas in Chopin’s Préludes the core of the entire set is distinguished by the two slowest and longest Preludes: Nos. thesis. 13–15 Preludes Nos. 1–12 Preludes Nos. Preludia Chopina (Chopin’s preludes) (Kraków: PWM. 13 and 15. 13 and 15 are the longest in the set. 104 Ibid. Nos.2 shows that Chominski regarded Op.

3 shows that the two outer preludes are in sharp contrast to the middle prelude. According to him. 13 long. symbolic unity is created. First. 28. 44 . G# minor. descending and ascending. and tempo. fast Prelude No. Prelude No. through the reappearance of a motive.3 Central core of Op. G minor. agitated. not in all. 4. Chominski attempted to show the recurrence of stepwise motions throughout the set. In an attempt to identify further coherence elements in Op. as in Schumann’s cycles. character. F Major. looking at this list. His list of recurring motives (see Fig. for they differ in length. appear in most pieces of Western music and might be not intended as a cyclic element. E minor. F# Major. D Major. this time with two slow outer preludes and a fast middle prelude.105 Table 4. Chominski has identified motives that reoccur in various preludes throughout the cycle. he has looked for motivic recurrences. in both form of ascending and descending major or minor seconds. B Major. lyrical. so that the core itself is reminiscent of a Nocturne as well.3) includes the following preludes: C Major. Chominski’s large-scale design is based on an easily recognizable contrast. But even within those twelve. Eb minor. he was only able to find recurring motives in twelve out of the twenty-four preludes. B minor. 28. 14 short.Eb minor. However. 105 Ibid. slow Table 4. F# minor. lyrical. slow Prelude No. Therefore. C minor. one finds inconsistencies in Chominski’s argument. his list shows some questionable elements. 15 long. However. stepwise motions.

45 .3. 4.3 shows that Chominski nevertheless points at some repeated minor and major seconds and labels them as motives. 1950).Fig. such as in 106 The list was originally published in Chominsky. Chominski’s list of motives. Preludia Chopina (Krakow: PWM. These motives can be repeated on the same pitch. This is a hand-written copy based the original list. 4.106 Fig.

the first prelude where he points at the G-A. Structure. have acknowledged his work but expressed reservations as well. for he was the first scholar to investigate and discuss the cyclic elements in the Préludes. “Taken all in all. his identification of those in the B-minor and F-Major Preludes are. work well for a performance of Op. Chominski’s work in the field is important. Nevertheless. “Twenty-Four Preludes Op. G-A. 28: Genre. Eigeldinger’s Motivic Recurrences The Swiss musicologist Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger believes that Chominski’s three-partform idea is not a satisfying solution to the coherence question in Chopin’s Op.” in Chopin Studies. 28 sonata structures fitted into an ensemble of miniatures. Such an interpretation cannot be other than purely speculative. The former one B-B. 107 Jean-Jaques Eigeldinger. but a repeated statement of the tone B. 46 . He writes.”108 Chominski’s idea of a thematic recurrence does not convince Eigeldinger either. however.”107 He continues. 1988). Jim Samson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ed. Significance. his attempt to identify recurring motives is not as convincing. “Considerations along these lines [He refers to the idea that groups of monothematic etude-like pieces and bithematic nocturne-like pieces form blocks within the set] have led Chominski to see in Op. or moving as in the G# minor prelude where he identifies the following motion: D#-E. 108 Ibid. G-A repetition. B-B. B-B does not include a motion by step. While his overall identification of the stepwise motives seems plausible. While Chominksi’s large-scale three-part form is easy to recognize to the listener and does. the parameters outlined above are a stumbling block to any serious attempt at an internal grouping of these pieces. and so on. 28. More recent scholars. 181. 28. questionable. especially Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger. E#-F#. E-E#. while the latter shows neither stepwise motives but instead broken F-major triads. He writes. indeed.

”109 To Eigeldinger. 4. then in A Major.111 In the first variant. 109 Ibid. in the form of progressions of seconds.“Chominski comes close to it [a unifying principle] when he proposes a Substanzgemeinschaft [a common substance] common to twelve…of the twenty-four pieces.” both. in the fifth prelude X is heard in D. 47 . all twenty-four preludes are unified by the recurrence of a “rhythmical ostinato. He believes that the Préludes are distinguished by “an omnipresent motivic cell which assures its unity through a variety of textures. Fig. 111 In case of modulations. He calls this variant Y. melodic and harmonic. For instance. there is a motion up by a sixth. both versions can appear on different scale degrees within one prelude.5 Eigeldinger’s Y motive.”110 Eigeldinger found that in all preludes there is one of the following two variants of the motivic cell. 110 Ibid.4 Eigeldinger’s X motive. The second version is almost identical with the exception that it is followed by another descending stepwise motion. In a detailed list of musical examples. followed by a stepwise motion downwards. But any explanation must take account to the volume as a whole. 4. Fig. He calls that X. The following is a reproduction of his extensive list of musical examples. Eigeldinger demonstrates that either X or Y are present in each of the twenty-four preludes.

Fig.6 Eigeldinger’s list of X and Y motives in the Préludes. 4. 48 .

49 .

50 .

51 .

22. 6. 5. Y. 11. and 23. 10. 15. 13. The chart makes clear that the X or Y motives begin on the Tonic in Preludes Nos.The examples demonstrate that all twenty-four preludes contain X. Y version: 1–6–5–4 In Preludes Nos. 1. Eigeldinger has indicated the X and Y motives with brackets and circled the individual notes within each motive. 19. 10. 4. His examples show that in all preludes there is an upwards motion by a sixth followed by one (in the case of X) or two successive (in the case of Y) stepwise descents. 16. 21. the X or Y motives begin on 52 . 14. or both motives. 12. 9. 20. 3. and 24. In these instances there is the following scale degree movement: ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ X version: 1–6–5. 8. 7.

In bars 5–7 the second fifth G–D is introduced with an insistent E appoggiatura–– following the practice of the tuner who plays the perfect triad with a six-four appoggiatura. G–D. His examples further show that there are also permutations of the motive. 17. In this case. Eigeldinger has included the key on which it is based in parentheses.112 Eigeldinger’s theory seems plausible. This demonstrates that his motives are not based on the key of each prelude but can occur on different tonal levels. going on to be transposed from Prelude no. the scale degree motion is the following: ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ X version: 5–3–2. His chart is comprehensive and includes all preludes. Eigeldinger concludes that Op. 5–1–2–3. it is more likely that he did so in an attempt to unify the work than to imitate the tuning 112 Ibid. the fifth throughout three octaves and the third at the octave. 9. In Prelude No. In the first bar of Prelude No. and 24. if Chopin included the X and Y motives intentionally. 2 and 3 it appears on identical notes…. in the twenty-fourth prelude the X motive appears on “F. Even if he did. 21 the Y motive does not move 5–3–2–1. For instance. 1. 28 is a type of manual for tuning the instrument. 1 the major triad is laid out according to its natural resonance. The tuning therefore begins with the superimposition of the two fifths C–G. 12. the rising sequence of fifths together with their thirds indicates step by step the way in which his instrument was tuned. 182. this is where the motivic cell derives from and explains why in Preludes nos. for it is based on the facts he provides. It will always remain speculative. the motives begin neither on the tonic nor on the dominant but instead on the fourth scale degree. 17 and 18. subdominant. When the motive occurs neither on the tonic.the dominant. the fundamental being doubled at two octaves’ distance. however. but instead. or dominant. 53 . This is the case in Preludes Nos. Y version: 5–3–2–1 In Preludes Nos. He explains that X and Y derive from the tuning practice of the time: The shape of this melodic cell is generated by the dictates of the temperament of Chopin’s piano.. thus on the subdominant. The relationship C–G is thus highlighted. with their respective thirds E and B. 5. 4 onwards. He clearly shows that X or Y does appear in all pieces. Based on his findings.” the third scale degree in the key of D minor.

Referring to Chominski. “Reflexionen über den Beginn der Musik: Eine neue Deutung von Frédéric Chopins Préludes op.practice of the time. ed. She finds deceptive movements or harmonic instabilities in nineteen preludes. dominant pedal points. from V to vi or to IV in form of a melodic gesture of hesitant quality. she portrays his theory as further questionable when she mentions that Chominski had later called his large-scale theory “a speculation. 1996). they are considered with respect to their harmonic background. as she writes. Christoph-Hellmut Mahling and Kristina Pfarr (Eurasburg: Hans Schneider Tutzing. It seems unlikely that he would have intended to write a tuning manual in the form of a musical work as serious and dramatic as Op. 113 Anselm Gerhard. Anselm Gerhard’s Philosophical Ideas Anselm Gerhard found in the Préludes hints to nineteenth-century philosophical ideas. she points out that in many instances the Préludes are distinguished by deceptive movements. In her article “Reflexionen über den Beginn der Musik: Eine neue Deutung von Frédéric Chopins Préludes Op. 28” (Reflections on the beginning of music: A new interpretation of Frédéric Chopin’s Préludes. The following example shows the repetition of Ab3 in the “Raindrop” Prelude. just as Eigeldinger had done. 28).6). 28” (Reflections on the beginning of music: A new interpretation of Frédéric Chopin’s Préludes op. She writes that these dominant pedalpoints contribute to a certain harmonic instability.”113 Neither are his stepwise motives convincing to Gerhard––for steps can occur in most pieces of music––unless. 28). 54 . 17 and the repeated Ab3 pedalpoint throughout the “Raindrop” Prelude (see Fig. and I–IV progressions. 4. 105. in Deutsche Musik im Wegkreuz zwischen Polen und Frankreich (German music as an intersection between Poland and France). Her examples include the permanently repeated fifth Eb2 throughout the last page of Prelude No. including scalar movements from the fifth to the sixth scale degrees. Op. 28.

Gerhard points out that the first prelude starts with a repeated movement from the fifth to the sixth scale degree (from G3 to A3). the beginning of pieces had apparently become a compositional problem. and in which no cycle of variations and almost no rondo could exist without its own prologue.” My translation. wo die langsame Einleitung zum ersten Sonatensatz bereits die Regel geworden war.7 Prelude No. “In einer Zeit. the frequent deceptive movement and dominant pedals give a somewhat indecisive quality to the Préludes. 28. and that this deceptive problem is not solved until the end of the piece where the motion is reversed for the first time (from A3 down to G3). 4. 114 Gerhard. 107. war der Beginn einer musikalischen Komposition offenbar zum kompositorischen Problem geworden. An indecisive opening often poses the same question or compositional problem that is solved in different ways for each piece. in which the slow introduction to the first movement of sonatas had become the norm.” My translation. The dominant pedal Ab3 in the left hand creates harmonic instability. “Eine Gemeinsamkeit aller Préludes wäre also in dem merkwürdig unentschiedenen Umgang mit dem Beginn des musikalischen Verlaufs zu suchen. but rather the consequence of different solutions to the precisely same compositional question. She continues. mm. To Gerhard. 15 in Db Major. in der kein Variationszyklus und kaum ein Rondo ohne eigene Introduktion auskam. She believes that the different character of each prelude is not the result of a vaguely poetic content of character pieces. which for her provides the unifying factor of Op.”115 According to her. there is no other work with such a systematic connection between opening and end as the Préludes. 55 . 115 Ibid. 5–9.Fig.”114 She explains. “In a time. “A common feature of all Préludes could be found in the strangely indecisive opening of the music.

m. G4. at the beginning of the piece. 4. Ab4. In the opening of the C-minor prelude. Fig.10 Prelude No. Opening movement from G3 to A3. the ascending motion from the fifth to sixth scale degree is reversed right away. Gerhard remarks that in other preludes (the ones in C minor and Eb minor). 1 in C Major.9 Prelude No. mm.8 Prelude No. Beginning (G4–Ab4) and ending (Ab4–G4) takes place in the same measure. 4. 108. moves up to the sixth scale degree. the fifth scale degree. mm 1–3.. to resolve immediately back to G4.116 She points out that the opening of the A– 116 Ibid. 1 in C Major. 28–34. Fig.Fig. 1. 56 . 4. the immediate and direct connection between the beginning and ending is reversed. According to Gerhard. Closing Statement from A3 to G3. She concludes that the “central quality off all the preludes” lies in the idea on how to solve the problem posed at the beginning. 20 in C minor.

28. She suggests that in that case. She concludes that the common element of all pieces within the set can be found in the strangely different continuation of the opening. 7 in A Major..11 Prelude No. 1–4. 108–9. This example supports her theory that there is a strange intermingling between beginnings and endings throughout Op. 4. 117 Ibid. this could very well be the beginning of a closing section. According to Gerhard. This inspired Gerhard to propose a philosophical interpretation: this feature of the Préludes can be seen as a musical statement of the Romantic notion that life is the beginning of death. mm. 57 . Fig. and that every beginning of an organic existence is already directly related to its coming end.11 shows that the first phrase begins on the dominant with a 6–5 suspension (C#5–B5) ending on a dominant seventh chord. the second phrase would have been the same.” Fig. with the exception that it would have moved from the dominant back to the tonic. 4.Major prelude––the only musical example in her essay––“consists of a phrase that could as well be the ending of a piece.117 She concludes her essay with the hypothesis that the Préludes could have been intended as a systematic reflection on compositional problems as well as a confrontation with the impermanence of any existence.

if not at times impossible. in six instances. They do unify the set on paper. While practicing Op. these imbedded motives are difficult. for it sounds like a recurrent theme continuing throughout the set. Eigeldinger. Eigeldinger has proven that his X and Y motives appear in all twenty-four preludes. it is. Even though purely speculative. coherent composition. 58 . Kresky. at the end and beginning of consecutive preludes. which unify the set as a whole. It becomes clear that the three middle preludes do. Chomisnki’s has provided a large-scale plan. indeed. I will show that there are motions between these two scale degrees. In contrast. 28. form a group contrasting with the two large outer groups. realized in many instances on the fifth and sixth scale degree has led me to a detailed analysis of the Préludes. In the following chapter. This can be observed in the score and becomes clear to the listener as well. but much less so in a performance. at the least. I found that the distinct sound of the deceptive motion from the fifth and sixth scale degree is omnipresent in all pieces. However. Kresky points at the most obvious features.Summary All four authors discussed here. and Gerhard. and all have given plausible explanations. to hear. Gerhard’s idea of the deceptive motions and connection between beginning and end. not just in some. possible to group the Préludes according to his three-part form during a performance and easy to recognize for the audience. have tried to explain why the Préludes sound as a unified. Chominski. the tonal organization and the resounding of common tones.

59 .1 Prelude No. This is the case in Prelude No. repeated three times before it descends (see Fig. 2nd ed. Scalar Motion as a Melodic Idea The motion between the fifth and sixth scale degrees is most obvious when it appears in the melody.1). I found that the fifth and sixth scale degrees are significant in all preludes and represent a unifying element for the entire set. To avoid what Jonathan Bellman calls a play-by-play analysis. 4 in E minor. The movement between the two scale degrees strikes the careful listener as a common element in all preludes. the 5–6 motion appears in the melody as a passing-tone 118 Jonathan Bellman. ^ ^ 5––––––––––––––––––6 ^ ^ 5––––––––––––––––––6 ^ ^ 5–––––––––––––––––6 ^ ^ In Prelude No. 9 in E Major. 5. A Short Guide to Writing About Music. I have grouped the pieces by the type of motion. while in others it is embedded in the texture. mm. Fig. I have examined the Préludes in detail. 5.CHAPTER 5 MOTION BETWEEN THE FIFTH AND SIXTH SCALE DEGREES IN THE PRÉLUDES Inspired by the articles discussed in the previous chapter. 2002). 4 in E minor were the long-breathed melody is moving between the fifth and sixth scale degrees. 43. In some preludes this motion from the fifth to sixth scale degree is obvious. 1–3.118 going in order from the first to the twentyfourth prelude. (New York: Pearson Longman.

1–2. 9 in E Major. Here.3 Prelude No.3). the sixth scale degree appears in form of a neighbor tone and is even emphasized ^ ^ ^ by the descending grace note. Fig.motion (see Fig. 20 in C minor is distinguished by a lamenting 5–6–5 motion in the ^ ^ ^ Melody (see Fig. 5.2). the 5–6–5 motion in the melody is most obvious. 5. 11 in B Minor. 5.2 Prelude No. mm. mm. ^ ^ ^ ^ 5–––6––5––5 ^ ^ ^ ^ 5––6–––5––5 ^ ^ ^ Prelude No. 1–5. 60 . ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ 5––––––––––5–––––––5––5––––––––––6––––––––––––6 ^ ^ ^ In Prelude No. This opening 5–6–5 motion determines the compositional material for the entire prelude. 5. Fig. 11 in B Major. 5. This 5–6–5 motion is stated twice before the melody continues (see Fig.4).

I have included these three preludes in the first category.5). (see Fig. Fig. 119 Preludes Nos. ^ ^ 5–––––––6 ^ ^ 5––––––––6 ^ ^ 5–––––––6 The pieces closes with the reverse motion from the sixth to the fifth scale degree. 1–3. 5. 61 . In other words.119 This is most obvious in the first Prelude. repeated three times (see Fig. 4 and 20 belong clearly into this category. in C Major. 20 in C Minor.6). because the motion between the fifths and sixth scale degrees also occurs in the melody. 5. 5.4 Prelude No. However. The movement between the fifth and sixth scale degrees is additionally doubled at the octave. mm. 1 in C Major.1. ^ ^ ^ 5–––6––––5 Motion Between Fifth and Sixth Scale Degree as Motivic Seed ^ ^ There are many preludes in which the 5–6 motion is not only heard at the beginning but also becomes the building block for the entire piece. again. 5. the compositional material on which the prelude is built is derived from the opening statement between the two scale degrees.5 Prelude No. m.Fig.

1–2. 28–34. 5. 3–5. Fig. 5. The 6–5 descent appears in the left hand at the apex of the first six phrases. 5. 1 in C Major. mm.7 Prelude No. ^ ^ 6––5 ^ ^ 6–––5 62 . mm. In the right hand.8). for the motion between the fifth and sixth scale degrees appears not only in succession in both hands.6 Prelude No. 3 in G Major.8 Prelude No. 3 in G Major. but ^ ^ it is also the cell from which the material for each hand is derived. the right hand echoing the left. mm. ^ ^ 6–5 ^ ^ 6–5 Fig. 5.7 and 5. this is echoed in augmented form (see Figs.Fig. ^ ^ 6––5 ^ ^ 6––5 ^ ^ 6––5 Prelude No. 3 in G Major is striking.

the entire right-hand figuration is.10). again. 63 . 14 in Eb minor. 1–2. derived from the ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ opening 5–6–6–5–5 movement. This is repeated before the wild groups of agitated sixteenth notes continue to ascend (see Fig. 1–2.11).In Prelude No. 5. 8 in F# minor. 10 in C# minor. ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ 5–6––5––6–5 In Prelude No. Fig. 5. 5. mm. mm. 5.9). ^ ^ ^ 5––––––6–––5 ^ ^ ^ 5––––––6––5 The playful rapid descending motions in sextuplets and quintuplets in Prelude No. 8 in F# minor. the sixth scale degree appears as a neighbor tone to the fifth at the beginning of the phrase. stated twice (see Fig. Fig.9 Prelude No.10 Prelude No. 5. 10 are ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ all based on the opening 5–6–5–6–5 group in the first measure (see Fig.

18 opens with a repeated phrase beginning on 5–6 (see Fig. 18 in F minor. 5.Fig.13 Prelude No. 1–4. mm. the short 6–5 motion in the first measure becomes. mm. 5. Fig. 64 . mm.13). in Prelude No. 22 in G minor. The same two scale degrees appear as a compound minor second in the left hand as well. 1–2. 23.12 Prelude No. 22 in G minor.12). 1–3. ^ ^ 5––6 ^ ^ 5––6 ^ ^ In Prelude No. In the two opening ^ ^ measures this is distinguished by repeated 6–5 motions (see Fig. there is. ^ ^ 6–––––––5 Similar to Prelude No. ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ 5––––6–––6––––6–––5––––5 ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ 5––––6–––6––––6––––5––––5 ^ ^ 5––––6 ^ ^ The recitative-like Prelude No. 5. 14 in Eb minor. the building block for the entire right-hand motive (see Fig. 5. Fig. this time in the right hand. 5. 5. again. in F Major a perpetuum mobile throughout the entire piece.11 Prelude No.14). 3.

5. this time from the minor sixth to the fifth scale degree. there is again a resolution. 5 begins with an obvious alternation between the sixth and the lowered sixth scale b ^ ^ ^ degrees. However. 2 in A minor. 20. Fig. it strikes the listener as an opening and a closing statement (see Fig. in A minor. In the famous Prelude No. this happens at the most subtle level. 5–6 and mm. in m. mm. After the hesitant sounding alternations from 6 and 6 to 5 the music moves on. 1–2. At the end of the piece. ^ ^ #6-5 ^^ 6-5 Prelude No. there seems to be no significant movement between the fifth to the sixth scale degree. both resolving to the fifth.14 Prelude No. 23 in F Major. 65 . a resolution from the major sixth to the fifth degree. mm. within the grace-note figure of measure 5.Fig. ^ ^ ^ 5–––––––6––5 ^ ^ 6––5 ^ ^ 6––5 ^ ^ 6––––5 ^ ^ 6––5 ^ ^ 6––5 ^ ^ 6––5 Alternation between Major and Minor Sixth Scale Degrees ^ ^ Chopin emphasizes the deceptive qualities of the 5–6 motion in the following preludes by an alternation between the major and minor sixth. When isolated from the context of the piece. there is. 20–1.15 Prelude No. 2. When listening to this prelude. 5.15). 5.

16 Prelude No. C and Cb (see Fig. ^ ^ 6––5 b ^ ^ 6––––5 b ^ ^ 6––5 b In the end of the nineteenth prelude. this time. mm. mm. ^ ^ 6––––5 b ^ ^ 6––––5 ^ ^ 6––––––5 ^ ^ 6––––5 ^ ^ 6––––5 b The piece closes with three resolutions. 19 in Eb Major. Fig. 5. Fig. 48–61.Fig. 1–4. 5. 5. 5. 5. 5 in D Major.18 Prelude No.17). 5 in D Major. 32–9.18). there is an alternation between major and minor sixths.17 Prelude No. mm. ^ ^ ^ 5––––b6–––––5 ^ ^ ^ 5––––6–––––5 66 . all from the lowered sixth to the fifth scale degree (see Fig.

^ ^ 5–-––b6––– ^ –––––––5 ^ ^ ^ 5––––––6––––––5 Alternation between the Two Scale Degrees to Form an Underlying Structure The most striking example of an underlying structure in form of motion between the fifth and sixth scale degrees can be found in Prelude No. Although its monotonous ostinato-like repetition strikes the listener immediately. where the repeated eighthnote motive in the left hand serves as the central driving force under the rapid moving sixteenthnote runs in the right hand. the left hand is pondering the fifth scale degree F3 throughout mm. in the following four measures to resolve back to F3 in m. 16 in Bb minor.19). 2–4 and changes to the 6th scale degree Gb3. 67 . 9 (see Fig. it is apparent only to a careful listener that even here. Embedded into the overall texture under the scalar motion in the right hand. there is a motion from the fifth to sixth scale degree taking place on a much larger scale. 5.

1–2. escaping occasionally to the sixth in form of a neighboring tone (see Fig. 5.Fig. ^ ^^ 5–6–5 68 . 5.20). mm. 15 in Db Major.19 Prelude No. 16 in Bb minor. 5. ^ 5 ^ 5 ^ 5 ^ ^ 5–––––––––––––6 ^ 6 ^ 6 ^ 5 ^ 6 ^ 6 ^ 5 ^ 6 ^ 6 ^ ^ 6––––––––––––5 The second example in this category is the famous “Raindrop Prelude” with its almost everpresent underlying repetition of the fifth scale degree. 1–9. mm. Fig.20 Prelude No.

there are two unexpected accents on the fifth and sixth scale degree. In the early version of this prelude the accents are not there. respectively (see Fig. In Prelude No. 28. mm. After the two middle phrases.21). Op. 1–10. 51–3. 5. the two phrases open with the fifth and sixth scale degrees. 5. 7 in A Major.120 Chopin 120 The early version of this prelude is published as an appendix in Frédéric Chopin: Préludes. while the second phrase begins with the sixth scale degree. The accents are placed on two notes that would ordinarily not be of particular importance to the overall melodic context.The Mazurka-like Prelude No. Op. 2003). the material returns and again.21 Prelude No. ^ ^ 5––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––6 ^ ^ 5––––––––––––––––––––––––––––6 Motion of Fifth and Sixth Scale Degrees Highlighted by Marcato Accents In two instances Chopin highlights the five-six motion with marcato accents. Fig. The first phrase opens with the fifth. 17 in Ab Major. ed. 69 . Peters. 7 in A Major reveals at first glance no significant move between the two scale degrees. F. A closer look however shows that the fifth and sixth scale degrees are embedded into the texture on a deeper structural level. Jean-Jaques Eigeldinger (London: C. 45.

mm 39–40. ^ ^ 5–––––––––6 The second instance of such articulation highlighting can be found in Prelude No. 17 in Ab Major.evidently added them later for the final version.22 Prelude No. 5. 39–40. 21. and additionally emphasized by two marcato accents as well as the fortissimo marking (see Fig.. mm. Fig. ^ ^ ^ ^ 6–5 b6–––5 b ^ ^ ^ ^ 6––5 b6––5 b ^ ^ 6––5 b 70 . the motion from the fifth to the minor sixth scale degree appears not only at the climax of the piece. 21 in F Major.22). 5. 5. but is repeated five times. It appears that Chopin may have added the two accents to remind the listener of the deceptive quality that had occurred so many times up to that point in the set (see Fig. Fig. 6–7. 5. This is one of the very few preludes that had originally no significant movement between the two scale degrees before the composer’s additions.23 Prelude No.23). where. in mm.

24). Fig. The bass moves. 5. 13 in F# Major stands out as the longest in the set. ^ ^ 1––––––––3 ^ ^ 1––---–––––5 ^ ^ ^ 6––––5––––––––5 Prelude No. There is neither an ^ ^ obvious 5–6 motion in the melody. ^ ^ ^ 1–––––––––––––––––––––––––––5–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––5–––––––––––––––– 71 . nor are any scale degrees highlighted by accents. 5. from the first to the fifth scale degree. Fig. In other words. mm. and finally up to the sixth scale degree.24 Prelude No. marked Più Lento. This is the climax of the first part of the piece (see Fig. 18–23. the opening phrase moves first up to the third.25). and the second section. then to the fifth. mm. however. a significant moment in the piece (see Fig. ^ ^ the only 5–6 motion taking place in this piece is the shift from the first section to the Più Lento section. 1–8. 13 in F# Major. begins with the sixth degree. 5. moving back to the fifth.25 Prelude No.Motion Between the Two Scale Degrees at Climactic Moments In the B-minor Prelude. 6 in B minor. 5.

the phrase beginning a step higher each time. 80–1 (see Fig. The following descending six-octave arpeggio is distinguished. This functions as a closing frame to the opening statement of the C-major prelude. 12 in G# minor. Fig. A4. 12.26). ^ ^ 5––––––––––––––––––––––6–––– ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ––––5––––––––––––––––––7–––6––––5–––––––––––––––––8–––7––––6–––5 Finally. 28. 5. the 6–5 motion is stated three times. and most striking. While the set had opened with an obvious five-six 72 . is the ending of Op. then the minor sixth.^ ––––––––––6 ^ ^ At the end of Prelude No. Bb4. This results in the unexpected ^ ^ fortissimo 5–1 close in octaves in mm. in G# minor. by a resolution from Bb to A. 5. again. closes with right-hand octaves pondering first the major sixth scale degree B4.27 shows that the last prelude. 70–81. to finally resolve to the fifth.26 Prelude No. Fig. mm. 5.

The six categories used in this chapter to classify these deceptive movements point at the different types of five-six motions. b Summary As I have shown. Some preludes. 73 . I have shown that Chopin has embedded these motions both in obvious and in subtle ways. I have. thus framing the entire set (see Fig. Those preludes that can be grouped into more than one. 72–77. When carefully listening to the set.27 Prelude No. however.27). Fig. 5. therefore created a table that shows how the preludes can be categorized. just as boldly. mm. ^ ^ ^ 6–––––––––––––b6–––––––––––––5 ^^ 6-5 b ^^ 6-5 b ^^ 6-5 …. it closes. 28. the movements between the fifth and sixth scale degrees are significant in Chopin’s Préludes. 5. the deceptive motion can be heard in every piece and becomes what one could call “the theme” of Op. fit into several categories. appear in the table in all categories to which they could be assigned.repetition. with a dramatic six-five motion. 24 in D minor.

9. and 16 ^ ^ 5–6 Motions Highlighted by Marcato Accents ^ Nos. 4. 14. 2. 13.1 Type of 5–6 Motion ^ ^ Types of 5–6 Motion Preludes Nos. 5. 6. and 19 ^ 5–6 Motion as Underlying Structure Nos. 22. and 23 ^ 5–6 Motions Alternating between Major and Minor Sixth ^ Nos. 11. ^ ^ 5–6 Motion as Melodic Idea Nos. 10. 18. 17 and 21 ^ 5–6 Motion at Climactic Moments Nos. 2.^ ^ Table 5. 4. 8. 7. 3. 15. 8. 21. and 20 ^ ^ 5–6 Motion as Motivic Seed ^ Nos. 20. 1. and 24 74 .

They are not merely. 28 represent something new in music history. However. Marc Honegger and Gunther Massenkeil. Chopin’s Préludes do nothing but that––establishing a mood. A Reader’s Guide to the Chopin Preludes (London: Greenwod Press. Chopin’s twenty-four pieces are not preludes to a subsequent movement but rather autonomous pieces that stand for themselves. 28” (Reflections on the beginning of music. 334. each establishing a unique mood or character.CONCLUSION Chopin’s preludes are compositions of an order entirely apart. “This may have been a historically pivotal situation––in the sense of its heralding a change in the application of this title [prelude]. they are clearly unlike previous preludes because they do not introduce subsequent piece. Quoted in Anselm Gerhard. such pieces soon becoming character pieces in their own right.”122 121 Jeffrey Kresky. 122 Prelude in Das grosse Lexicon der Musik in acht Baenden. A new interpretation 75 . They still resemble the traditional preludes in one way: historically it has been the purpose of a prelude to establish a mood. Preludes had been a popular genre in the keyboard literature since its infancy.”121 Chopin’s Préludes are nineteenth-century character pieces composed in all twenty-four keys. and elevates it to the regions of the ideal. 1994). analogous to those of another great contemporary poet. As Kresky writes. “Reflexionen über den Beginn der Musik: Eine neue Deutung von Frédéric Chopins Préludes op. when she writes. Gerhard quotes the German music dictionary Das grosse Lexicon der Musik in acht Baenden. as the title would indicate. Yet. which has nothing in common anymore with the old prelude type with the exception that both are written for piano…. 1981). who cradles the soul in golden dreams. ed. “The prelude of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Op. ––Franz Liszt Chopin’s twenty-four Préludes. as we find it especially in the work of Frédéric Chopin…forms a genre.It is rather the French version of the Romantic… character piece. (Freiburg: Herder-Verlag. the nature of pieces entitled preludes had always been that of an introduction. xiv. introductions to other morceaux––they are preludes instinct with poesy.

Even though Chopin never indicated this coherence in the form of titles or descriptive notes. with a 6–5 motion.” My translation. 1996). Second. Jahrhunderts aber. wie wir es vor allem im Schaffen von Frédéric Chopin und Claude Debussy finden. contributing to an overall tension and release which adds to the flow of music throughout the set. Es handelt sich hier vielmehr um die französische Version des romantischen (bzw. “Das Prélude des 19. für Klavier geschrieben zu sein…. of Frédéric Chopin’s Préludes op. Finally. impressionistischen) Charakterstücks. repeated three times. he distinguished the entire set by an emphasis on the deceptive qualities between the fifth and sixth scale degrees. there is striking contrast between one prelude and its successor. just a bold. die mit dem Praeludium alten Typs nichts mehr gemeinsam hat außer dem Faktum. and finally in the form of a six octave descending arpeggio ending on the final D1. Using one of the oldest keyboard genres enabled the composer to transform the preludes into something new. first in octaves. and. the Préludes are organized according to the ascending circle of fifths and published as a set under one opus number. in Deutsche Musik im Wegkreuz zwischen Polen und Frankreich (German music as an intersection between Poland and France). und frühen 20. also stated also three times. the set opens with a easy to recognize 5–6 ^ ^ motion in the C-Major Prelude. As shown in my analysis. the ever-present movement between two scale ^ ^ degrees cannot be denied. Third.There are many aspects of the Préludes that hint at Chopin’s intention to create a set unified as a large-scale composition. 28). This opening and closing statement functions as a frame to the entire set and further highlights the many instances of motion between these two scale degrees. the last note of a prelude is the same as the first of the subsequent one. stellt eine Gattung dar. 104. Christoph-Hellmut Mahling and Kristina Pfarr (Eurasburg: Hans Schneider Tutzing. 76 . in six instances. then in repeated octaves. Chopin created the set with an ever present movement between the fifth and the sixth scale degrees. and it closes. First. In contrast to the speculation of Chominski’s large-scale diagrams. giving the impression of a continuous flow of music (Table 4. ed.1). which may have been intended as a unifying device. many of the preludes do not end with a perfect cadence.

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