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Prelude. About Prelude

Prelude (from lat. Prae … – before and ludus – game) – a short piece of music that does not have a strict form. At the time of its inception, the prelude always preceded the longer, more complex and strictly formalized work (hence the name), but subsequently the composers began to write preludes as independent works. Ostinato is often found in preludes; in general, preludes are similar in style to improvisation.

Prelude is an old genre and, at the same time, unusually sensitive to the latest requirements of the time, allowing many author’s decisions and interpretations. His fate is unusual: having arisen in the 15th century, the word “prelude” itself has repeatedly changed its meaning. Initially, this was a small instrumental introduction to some composition, sometimes written in advance, but most often improvised directly during the performance. Not constrained by the strict framework of the rules, it prepared the mood of the future play and at the same time allowed the performer to demonstrate inventiveness and virtuosity.

Improvisation, as well as the dominance of one image and a single, purely figurative type of texture, characteristic of such introductions, were preserved even when various opening pieces in the French opera and suite began to be called the prelude. They survived in the preludes of the 18th century, which became an independent instrumental genre. At the same time, a stable two-part cycle of prelude and fugue developed in the work of I.S. Bach.

In it, the freely developing musical thought of the prelude contrasts with the clear organization of material in the fugue, subordinate to strict laws. Bach’s “well-tempered clavier” (48 preludes and fugues) has become a genuine encyclopedia of different types of foreplay. Scherzo and toccata, solemn and mournful, dancing and focused on thinking about the most serious problems of being, it seems that they have access to all areas of content.

Sensing this, composers of subsequent generations went even further along the path opened by Bach. In their music, along with the preservation of the “paired” (prelude-fugue) and even the “large” (24 preludes and fugues) polyphonic cycles (in the 20th century, Soviet composers also turned to him – D. D. Shostakovich, R. K. Shchedrin), cycles of some preludes began to arise.

This, essentially, the “rebirth” of the prelude genre took place in the work of F. Chopin, who revealed the inexhaustible expressive possibilities of instrumental (in particular, piano) miniatures.

The world of Chopin’s preludes is striking in the richness of poetic experiences, the unexpectedness of emotional contrasts, the uniqueness and integrity of each image embodied in them. Together, making up a harmonious, harmonious whole, all 24 preludes are so perfect that they can be performed as independent, complete plays. Subsequently, the genre of prelude was significantly developed in the music of Russian composers – A.K. Lyadov, A.N. Scriabin, S.V. Rakhmaninov. These composers brought his, national specificity to his understanding. And dreamy, refined, filled with bold impulses and the aching longing of Scriabin’s foreplay, and more large-scale concert, evoking visible, picture associations of Rachmaninov’s foreplay, so dissimilar from each other, became a capacious expression of the mindsets of his era. The same qualities are inherent in Shostakovich’s ostentatious preludes.

The “well-tempered clavier” influenced almost all significant composers of subsequent eras, many of them wrote their own cycles of 12 or 24 preludes, which, like Bach’s, were arranged in tonalities. Frederic Chopin wrote a cycle of 24 preludes without fugues (Op. 28), thus freeing the prelude from its original purpose as the opening play. Since then, many composers have written preludes as independent works: two volumes of the impressionist preludes by Claude Debussy had a particularly great influence on subsequent composers.

The form of preludes was also used by some composers of the 20th century when they composed “suites” inspired by Baroque music. Such were the preludes of Maurice Ravel (cycle “The Tomb of Couperin”, 1914-1917) and Arnold Schoenberg (suite for piano Op. 25, 1921-1923).

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