Wednesday, August 26, 2015


"Do not take up music unless you
  would rather die than not do so."
AUTHOR: Nadia Boulanger
"A true musician must be willing to
  give up everything for his art"

Vladimir Horowitz, Piano

Vladimir Ashkenazy, Piano
Artur Rubinstein, Piano
A musical prelude is often a short introductory
piece but with Chopin's Preludes this is not the
case.  His short pieces are self-contained and
free-standing; each prelude is meant to depict
a specific idea or emotion.  He wrote a number
of them for solo piano, most famously his 24
Preludes, Op. 28; a set of 24 preludes written
between 1835 qnd 1839, one for each of the 12
major keys and one for each of the 12 minor keys.

The 24 Preludes Op. 28 by Frederic Chopin are
often compared to Bach's Preludes of the Well
Tempered Clavier; but each of Chopin's Preludes
were organized in a circle of fifths while Bach's
pieces were organized chromatically.
Chopin's Preludes were commissioned by
Chopin's friend, the piano-maker
Chopin's Pleyel Piano in Valldemossa
and publisher Camille Pleyel,
Camille Pleyel
for 2,000 francs and dedicated
 to Joseph Christoph Kessler,
Joseph Christoph Kessler
Joseph Christoph Kessler, a German pianist
and composer, who ten years earlier, had
dedicated his own set of 24 Preludes, Op. 31,
to Chopin. Some of Chopin's Preludes
were written where he spent the winter
of 1838-39 staying at the Valldemossa
La Cartuja de Valldemossa
in Mallorca,

Hermenegildo Anglada Camarasa: Calle Mallorquina, 1935
Palma, Mallorca
having fled there with his
lover George Sand
Chopin                                             Sand
and her children to escape
the damp and cold Paris weather.
Marià Pidelaserra: Bird's-Eye View of a Piece of Paris (Winter-Foggy Day)
Parisian Winter
French Romantic novelist
Amandine Aurore Lucie Dupin,
Baroness Dudevant, better
known by her pseudonym as
George Sand, was a woman
Chopin met in 1836 when he
attended a party hosted by
Countess Marie d'Agoult,
Marie d'Agoult 
the mistress of fellow composer
 and friend Franz Liszt.
Franz Liszt
George Sand was less than 5 feet
tall and dark haired; notorious for
wearing trousers, smoking cigars
and taking a man's name plus was
six years older than him.
They embarked on an affair that lasted close to
10 years when a family quarrel between Sand
and her children caused their break up.
George Sand and Chopin
Chopin, always frail and ailing, was taken in
the winter of 1838/39 by George Sand to Mallorca
Eliseo Meifren i Roig: Costa de Dei Mallorca
for his heath but unfortunately the weather was terrible 
and his chronic lung disease flared up. After meeting 
with doctors there he was diagnosed with what they 
thought was the very contagious disease tuberculosis
(now it is thought that he really had cystic fibrosis). 
When news got out about this he and George Sand 
(and her children) were banished to a cold, deserted 
monastery at Valldemossa to live.
During his stay in this monastery was
where his Prelude No. 15 in D-Flat Major
(the longest piece from the set of twenty-four)
was composed. The piece is known as the "Raindrop"
Prelude because of the persistent repeated A-flat
notes in its section "A" and the continuous G-Sharp
notes in section "B" (where the key changes
to C-Sharp Minor) sound like falling rain.
Repeated A-Flat Notes
(The weather during their stay in Mallorca
was apparently very wet.) The idea for the
nickname came from George Sand who
told of the sound of dripping water falling
on the roof where they were staying.
Royal Carthusian Monastery
(Real Cartuja de Valldemossa in Mallorca)
Originally the Real Cartuja de Valldemosa (Royal Carthusian Monastery)
was the site of a royal palace for Rei Sanxo I (1311-1324). In 1399 the
palace was given to the Carthusian monks, who extended the buildings
and converted the site into a monastery. The sanctuary had to be
dissolved though in 1835 when the new law of Desamortización
(Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizabal) led to many or indeed
most of the ancient monasteries in Spain being expropriated
and privatized, including this one in Valldemossa.
George Sand wrote a book,
"A Winter in Mallorca"
about her and Chopin's
experiences while living there.
by George Sand
In it she commented concerning the
writing of the "Raindrop Prelude,"
"It casts the soul into a terrible dejection.
Maurice (George Sand's son)
Maurice Sand (1823-1889)
and I had left [Chopin] in good health one
morning to go shopping in Palma
Mallorcan scenery between
Palma and Valldemossa
Streets in Palma
for things we needed at our 'encampment.'
The rain came in overflowing torrents.
We made three leagues in six hours,
only to return in the middle of a flood.
We got back in absolute dark, shoeless,
having been abandoned by our driver to
cross unheard of perils. We hurried, knowing
how our sick one would worry. Indeed he had,
but now was as though congealed in a kind of
quiet desperation, and, weeping, he was playing
his wonderful prelude.  Seeing us come in, he got
up with a cry, then said with a bewildered air and
a strange tone, 'Ah, I was sure that you were dead.'
A. I. Keller: Chopin, The Raindrop Prelude, 1919
When he recovered his spirits and saw the state we were in, he was ill,
picturing the dangers we had been through, but he confessed to me
that while waiting for us he had seen it all in a dream, and no longer
distinguishing the dream from reality, he became calm and drowsy.
While playing the piano, persuaded that he was dead himself, he saw
himself drown in a lake. Heavy drops of icy water fell in a regular rhythm
on his breast, and when I made him listen to the sound of the drops of
water indeed falling in rhythm on the roof, he denied having heard it.
He was even angry that I should interpret this in terms of imitative
sounds.  He protested with all his might-and he was right to-
against the childishness of such aural imitations.
His genius was filled with the mysterious sounds of nature, but 
transformed into sublime equivalents in musical thought, and not 
through slavish imitation of the actual external sounds. His
composition of that night was surely filled with raindrops,
resounding clearly on the tiles of the Charterhouse,
Tiles on the Floor of the Charterhouse
but it had been transformed in his imagination and in his song
into tears falling upon his heart from the sky."
Eliseu Meifren i Roig: Nocturno De Palma De Mallorca
This piece is a reflection of Chopin's desperate mood
at the time, focusing on his inner conflictions
and the contemplation of his solitary self.
The score is very detailed – it includes a lot of markings for the performer to follow.
These include pedal markings, fingerings, dynamic markings, and Italian terms. The
pedal markings are given under the bass stave. They show the pianist where to
depress the pedal (ped.) and release it (a star-shaped sign). The fingerings are
given by small numbers on some of the notes. The dynamic markings
refer to the loudness or quietness of the notes.
Sostenuto: rather slow
Sotto Voce: below the voice, in an undertone
Smorzando: fading away
Slentando: becoming broader, gradually slower
Presto: very quick
Ritenuto: immediately slower
Like many short piano pieces of the Romantic period,
this prelude is in ternary form – a three-part (AB bridge
A1) where the second A section is the same as, or very
similar to, the first A section. The B section, in C-Sharp
Minor, provides a contrast to the outer sections.

(Bars 1–27)
Major key, long melody
heard several times
(Bars 28–75)
Minor key, new melody
heard mainly in the bass
(Bars 76–end)
A shorter version of
the opening A section
Bars 1–4
Listen to the opening of the prelude.
Notice the long melodic line and the
repeated eighth notes of the pedal tones.
The piece opens in D flat major.
Time signature of 4/4 (C refers to common time).
Bars 5–8
Cantabile melodic line which falls and then rises in a long
curve Septuplet in the final bar where 7 sixteenth notes are
played in the time of 4 (the septuplet is preceded by
grace note– a single note ornament).
The melody is supported by broken chords
so the texture is homophonic.
Most of the opening is based on chords I and V – the tonic
and dominant, which in this case are D-Flat and A-Flat.
The first chord is the tonic.
Repeated A-Flat eighth notes (the raindrops) are used from
the beginning acting as a "pedal tone" throughout the piece.
The word 'pedal' (as opposed to the piano's foot pedal) is used
here to mean a repeated note played against changing harmonies.
A-Flat is the dominant of D-Flat Major, so this is a dominant pedal.
The A section ends with an imperfect
cadence leading into the second section.
An imperfect cadence ends on the dominant
chord (in this case a chord of A-Flat).
The piano pedal is used to produce lots of subtle effects.
Opening of a section B
The sections starts in the new key signature
of C-Sharp Minor, an enharmonic modulation.
The mood is darker and more dramatic with the minor key.
Key changes to C-Sharp Minor: repetitive A-Flat goes to a G-Sharp
note. D-Flat is the same note as C-sharp (it is enharmonic equivalent).
Sotto voce marking.
Repeated eighth notes in the treble clef (right hand).
Long melody in the bass clef (left hand), mostly in quarter notes.
A modulation is a change of key.
It uses some rich, dissonant harmony and a lot of dynamic
shading including huge crescendos used to build tension
when going to fortissimo which seems to
almost explode as it hits the chord of E and B.
Repeats twice.
Piano pedal is still being used.

(This section of the Prelude which
links section B back to section A.)
Still in the key of C-Sharp Minor.
Pedal still being used.
Totally different idea compared to section A or B.
Shorter than Section A and B by about half.
Links back to section A.
It is the hardest part of the piece.

Return of section A
Final section.
The key has now returned to D-Flat Major (this time a little different).
This section is much shorter than the opening A section.
The opening four bars are very similar to the opening of the piece
but this time the septuplet is replaced with 10 sixteenth notes.
Different ornaments with more decoration and rubato.
The next phrase is cut short, the pedal stops
briefly and is followed by an eight-bar coda.

The coda opens with an unaccompanied melody where
there is only one line; this is known as a monophonic texture.
The prelude ends PP (very quietly) with a perfect cadence.
A perfect cadence uses chord V (the dominant, in this case
A-Flat) followed by chord I (the tonic, in this case D-Flat).
Perfect cadences sound final so are
often used at the end of compositions.
Pedal still used.
Kristine T. Bouyoucos: Frederic Chopin Raindrop Prelude
In a general analysis, Prelude No. 15
"Raindrop" is the longest of the Twenty-Four
Preludes written by Chopin. The main
melody is repeated three times; the melody
in the middle, however, is much more
dark and dramatic. The key signature
switches between D-Flat Major and C-
Sharp Minor (its parallel minor).
Autograph, p. 1
GCSE Music
Prelude No. 15 In D-Flat Major, Op. 28
(Notes Contributor)
The melody is mostly lyrical and is played on the right hand, often
developed and decorated with ornaments including acciaccaturas
and turns.  However, the melody moves to the left hand in section B,
and plays a narrower rangewith notes lasting for a longer duration.
Dotted rhythms and chromaticism are features found in the melody
which is mainly made up of phrases that are four or eight bars long.
The time signature is 4/4 with four crotchets (quarter notes) in a bar.
"Sostenuto" is marked at the beginning of the score, meaning the
piece should be played with legato in an unhurried manner.  Repeated
eighth notes are played throughout the piece to represent gentle
raindrops.  Rubato is used during the performancemeaning that the tempo
is flexible for the performer to be more expressive and emotional.
The prelude begins in D-Flat Major though modulates to its enharmonic
tonic minor in Section B which is C-Sharp Minor.  It then returns back
to the tonic major for the repeat of Section A.  It mainly uses diatonic
harmony though chromatic harmony is heard occassionally.  A dominant
pedal is heard throughout most of the piece where A-Flat or G-Sharp is
sustained or repeated.  Section A and B both end with imperfect
cadences though the codetta in the end finishes with a perfect cadence.
Section A makes use of a homophonic texture where the right hand
plays the melody and the left hand plays an accompaniment with
broken chords.  The melody passes to the left hand in Section B
while the right hand plays an inverted pedal.  It is more chordal
than the previous section with the pedal notes being doubled in
octaves as the music builds up to a climax.  A short passage
with a monophonic texture is heard during the repeat of
Section A whereonly a single melody line is played.
A wide range of dynamics ranging from PP to FF is used throughout
the piece though there are no sudden contrasts in dynamics.
Chopin uses many crescendos and diminuendos.  Generally,
Section A is quieter than Section B as the second
section builds up to a climax with FF twice.
The prelude is written in ternary form with a structure of ABA.  Section
A is written in the tonic major (D-Flat Major) while the contrasting
sectiion is written in C-Sharp Minor.  Overall, the second section is
rather contrasting from the first section as it has a different
key for the music to build up to a couple of climaxes.
Throughout most of the prelude Chopin uses the middle to
the lower ranges of the piano with only occassional phrases
played with the higher range of keys.  The piano writing is
not virtuoso in character as it is used to produce a legato
and cantabile feeling.  This is unlike most of Chopin's other
works.  Extensive use of the sustaining pedal is used for
resonance to help create legato melodies.  The instrument's
wide dynamic range has been taken advantaged of through-
out the piece.  Many crescendos and diminuendos are
used creating extreme dynamic contrasts.
OP. 28 NO. 15 
(Easier Piano Version)
A Visit to
La Cartuja de Valldemossa
Chopin in Valldemossa

Hand-colored lithograph by Gustave Segur after a drawing by
Francisco Xavier Parceris, 19th c. Collection: Muzeum Fryderyka Chopina, Warsaw

Charterhouse in Valldemossa
Museo Chopin (Sala central celda nº 4 – Cartuja de Valldemossa)
Example of a Cloister (Cell Bedroom) at the Valldemossa 
In letters, Chopin wrote
about his experiences.
Here are a few quotes:

Concerning his illness he wrote,
"My manuscripts sleep, and I myself cannot, I only cough and, long
since covered with plasters, I wait for the spring, or for something else...
Tomorrow I am going to that most wonderful cloister to write in the cell
of an old monk, who may have had in his soul more fervor than I."

Describing the location after settling
into the monastery he said,
"Between the rocks and the sea, the huge abandoned Carthusian
monastery, where in one of the cells, behind doors like no gates
Paris has ever seen, you can imagine me dishevelled, without my
white gloves, pale as always. The cell has the form of a high coffin,
with a vast vault […] outside the window oranges, palms, cypresses
[…] a square little table that barely serves me for writing, upon
which stands a lead candlestick […] with a candle, Bach, my
scribblings […] quiet…one could shout… quiet. In a word,
I am writing to you from a strange place."