Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Frédéric Chopin

In the period 1836 - 1839 Chopin wrote 24 preludes, publishing them as a collection and attaching the opus number 28. He composed only two other preludes, the 1834 A flat major, and this C sharp minor effort from 1841. The earlier one was assigned the highest number posthumously because it was the last to be published; otherwise, this would be No. 26. Chopin's preludes all date from his mature years as a composer, and all were written in a seven-year span. Thus, unlike the polonaises, waltzes, and mazurkas, these divulge little in the way of stylistic growth -- except for the hardly negligible step toward profundity found in this C sharp minor Prelude, perhaps his deepest work in the genre.

Only the Op. 28 No. 15, in D flat major, runs to the five- or six-minute length of this C sharp minor Prelude, and approaches it in expressive depth. This last prelude begins with a gentle, melancholy theme, whose mostly ascending accompaniment Chopin deftly works into the gloomy melodic fabric. That is nothing new for him, but here the obsessive and seemingly simple manner of the harmony never becomes tiring, always remains profoundly atmospheric, largely because of the composer's manipulation of his thematic material, at times allowing sunlight to break in, as when the theme is played for the second time and blossoms into hopeful joy. Indeed, the success of this whole piece rests on the composer's deft handling of what is essentially threadbare thematic material -- there is no middle section here. It is hardly surprising that this masterpiece is one of Chopin's more popular and widely-played compositions.