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Chopin

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Frederic Chopin was a Polish composer and pianist during the Romantic period.

Chopin - Prelude in D Flat major Op.28

Chopin was born in Poland in 1810 and later settled in Paris. He had a famous love affair with the French novelist Amantine Dupin, best known by her pseudonym, George Sand. Chopin died of tuberculosis at the age of 39.

Statue of Chopin

Statue of Chopin

Chopin composed during the Romantic period (roughly the 19th century). Music of the Romantic period was highly emotional and expressive with strong lyrical melodies and rich harmony.

Most Romantic composers, including Schubert, Brahms and Liszt, wrote short piano pieces. Nearly all of Chopin’s compositions are for piano. They include nocturnes, waltzes, studies (etudes), and two piano concertos. Chopin’s piano pieces were written to be played at home as well as in the concert hall.

The Prelude In D Flat Major was completed in 1839. It is taken from a set of 24 preludes (one for each of the 12 major keys and one for each of the 12 minor keys). A musical prelude is often an introductory piece but not in this case. The short pieces are self-contained and free-standing.

The Prelude in D flat is nicknamed the Raindrop Prelude. It is often said that this refers to the persistent repeated notes which sound like rain falling. However, Chopin disliked descriptive titles and he did not give it this nickname. The idea came from George Sand who told of the sound of dripping water falling on the roof where they were staying in Majorca.

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.

Here are the Italian terms and their English definitions:

 

Italian termEnglish definition
sostenutorather slow
sotto vocebelow the voice, in an undertone
smorzandofading away
slentandobecoming broader, gradually slower
prestovery quick
ritenutoimmediately slower

Like many short piano pieces of the Romantic period, this prelude is in ternary form – a three-part form (ABA1) where the second A section is the same as, or very similar to, the first A section. The B section provides a contrast to the outer sections. The basic structure of the Chopin Prelude in D flat is:

 

ABA1
Bars 1–27Bars 28–75Bars 76–end
Major key, long melody heard several timesMinor key, new melody heard mainly in the bassA shorter version of the opening A section

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