Sunday, May 6, 2012
Chopin's preludes re-examine, re-shape, re-evaluate (and more) common notions or expectations so to speak, as we delve dip into the Romanic era. Sensuality of sound; what constitute a melody; rhythmic complexities; textural transparency; are all but a little teaser to what this epic work has to offer. It is the culmination of an era and at the same time the foundation of what is to come.
Here are 24 thoughts – some pre-thoughts, some middle-ones and some after-thoughts - about the 24 Preludes of Chopin:
1) First of all Chopin liberated the Prelude from the… Fugue! Similarly, he liberated the Etude from being a mere exercise or the Scherzo from being part of a larger work. There were predecessors, but he was by far the most masterful.
2) These are Preludes then, but to what? Well, the first one is probably a prelude to the second one. The third one is a prelude to the forth one. But is the second one a prelude to the third? Can we also say that the first twelve as a whole are a prelude to the succeeding twelve? I certainly feel that.
3) Are all the 24 preludes??? No. 23, the penultimate one has the flair of an "after-lude" in my opinion. No. 15, the famous one with the nickname "raindrop" feels very much like a "middle-lude", being the center of gravity in the cycle. Hence the reason that I called this entry "Pre-ludes, Middle-ludes, After-ludes".
4) Bach's "Goldberg Variations" among MANY things, is also a study of baroque dance genres, as each variation explores a different dance genre of the high baroque era. I would like to make a similar proclamation and say that to a large extent the 24 preludes are also 24 studies of 24 dance genres as well as other nineteen-century salon pieces that were common (more or less) in the Romantic period. We can find a barcarole (no. 13), a Nocturne (no. 15), Fantasy-Impromptu (no. 8), an elegy (no. 4), a funeral march (no. 20), a Polonaise (no. 6) a mazurka (no. 7) and etude (no. 19) etc.
5) Staying with Bach… when the great master wrote his B minor Mass he was approaching the end of his life. Writing a grand Mass for his legacy was of highest importance for him. Perhaps there was something of a "legacy" also with Chopin's decision to write 24 Preludes in all 24 major and minor scales – a large scale work that will encompass not only the eternity of music but of humanity in a sense. An emotional journey with the widest of range from triumph to despair, great struggle to euphoria, anger to ultimate sweetness etc.
...to be continued with the words of Liszt and others in the next entry.