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10 Cards in this Set

  • Front
  • Back
Context
Written in 1839 (in the early Romantic period).
Before this time, a ‘prelude’ was a brief opening piece of music that set the mood for music that followed. The difference in Chopin’s preludes were that they were written as stand-alone pieces, specifically written to depict a particular mood or scene.
It is often referred to as the ‘raindrop’ prelude because of the repeated quavers, the consistent pedal note, and the falling melodic phrases (e.g. opening notes of the Db major broken chord)
It comes from a set of 24 preludes that Chopin composed, one in each of the 12 major and 12 minor keys.
It was written to be performed in a home or a small concert hall.
Melody
Chopin writes long, lyrical melodic lines with graceful ornamentation.
The opening melody in the A section is characterized by a falling arpeggio; it then follows simple rising and falling stepwise movement. The first phrase ends with a semiquaver septuplet that resembles the ornament known as a ‘turn’.
The second melodic idea in the A section again follows simple stepwise movement, slightly varying every four bars.
The melody in the B section is mainly in the left hand of the piano part; it mainly moves by step in crotchets, and is chorale-like (i.e. hymn-like) in character.
The melody is often decorated with passing chromatic notes.
Harmony
It mainly uses diatonic harmony, though chromatic harmony is heard occasionally.
A dominant pedal is heard throughout most of the piece, where A♭ or G♯ is sustained or repeated.
Section A and B both end with imperfect cadences, though the codetta in the end finishes with a perfect cadence.
Tonality
The prelude begins in D♭ major, though modulates to its enharmonic tonic minor in Section B, which is C♯ minor. It then returns back to the tonic major for the repeat of Section A.
Rhythm
The time signature is 4/4 with four crotchets 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 quavers are played throughout the piece to represent gentle raindrops
Rubato is used during the performance, meaning that the tempo is flexible for the performer to be more expressive and emotional.
Texture
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.
The B secion 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, where only a single melody line is played.
Dynamics
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.
Structure
The prelude is written in ternary form, with a structure of ABA.
Section A is written in the tonic major (D♭ major), while the contrasting section is written in C♯ 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.
Instrumentation / Forces / Use of the Piano
Throughout most of the prelude, Chopin uses the middle to the lower ranges of the piano, with only occasional phrases played with the higher range of keys
The piano writing is not virtuoso in character (as opposed to a lot of Chopin’s other works!), as it is used to produce a legato and cantabile (i.e. song-like) feeling.
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 throughout the piece..
Key Features of Music from the Romantic Era:
Music is much more expressive and emotional than in earlier periods
Composers often used music to tell stories.
Rich and chromatic harmonies are used; in other words, composers used more complicated chords that often had meaning in themselves.
Greater use of dissonance and modulations to more remote keys.
Orchestras expanded and the number of virtuoso performers increased (performers that have excellent technical skills).
Structures and forms became longer
Pieces were often given descriptive titles, and ‘programme’ music became more common.