Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor…
Its incredible beauty has become legendary – and I have never met a student who did not want to learn this iconic masterpiece.
The Prelude has only 25 bars, and seems quite simple at first glance. If we dig a bit deeper, however, we can uncover an endless realm of fascinating secrets, treasures and challenges:
- a deep philosophical concept and dramaturgy
- masterfully ‘woven’ emotional layers: sadness, loneliness, desolation, grief, despair, tragic resignation – and ultimately peace and timeless wisdom
- a hidden polyphonic ‘foundation’ worthy of Bach’s mastery
- a laconic yet very powerful melody that comes to life when combined with the exquisite ‘shape-shifting’ accompaniment harmonies
- a dramatic culmination
- subtle ‘shades’ of sound color, dynamics, phrasing, intonation and rubato…
… all of this expressed with a brilliant simplicity that would make even Confucius jealous. The Prelude in E Minor concentrates a lifetime of suffering in only 1 page, and also manages to transcend it at the end.
A prayer, a funeral march, a poem to a broken heart, an ode to the inescapable sadness of existence… no matter how you choose to interpret it, the expressive potential of this music seems infinite.
From a purely technical point of view, however, the Prelude is not very difficult, being accessible after only 3-4 years of practice. For this reason, many intermediate students choose it as their first ‘Chopin piece’.
You can certainly do the same – and remember: it’s ok if you don’t master everything on your first attempt. After all, this is not a pedagogical piece that you need to ‘conquer and forget’. Learning how to play Chopin well, with the maturity and wisdom his music deserves, is a lifetime journey. Even his ‘simplest’ pieces are still jewels of the great repertoire that you can return to over and over, until you’re 90. Your mastery and understanding will inevitably keep increasing with each new loop of your ‘Chopin spiral’.
You can begin by downloading the score:
Chopin – Prelude in E Minor, op. 28 No. 4 (the original separate score of this piece).
Chopin – Prelude in E Minor, op. 28 No. 4 (the edited separate score – with bar numbers and my dynamic/pedaling suggestions).
Chopin – 24 Preludes op. 28 (the original Russian edition of the entire cycle).
Chopin – Prelude in E Minor, op. 28 No. 4.
Analysis and Step-by-Step Tutorial.
00:56. Analysis. When and where did Chopin write the 24 Preludes op. 28?
01:25. The 24 Preludes op. 28 and their ‘Bachian’ roots.
02:35. The Prelude in E Minor and its technical, emotional and expressive accessibility.
03:45. Step-by-step analysis. Artistic concept. The titles associated with this Prelude.
05:51. The underlying ‘Bach’ foundation of this music.
06:49. ‘The moments before death’ – another metaphor that can describe the atmosphere of the Prelude.
07:52. Tempo. Time signature and pulsation.
09:48. Texture. The hidden polyphonic layers.
10:28. Dramaturgy (or the ‘story’ behind the music).
11:25. Step-by-step tutorial (practice guide). The structure of the 1st sentence (bars 1-12).
12:19. LH practice. Using the double escapement mechanism for creating a smooth and soft connection between chords.
14:40. Posture, alignment and key attack tips for the repeated chords.
16:39. How to avoid tension and not ‘hold back’ when playing softly.
17:37. Revealing the underlying polyphonic foundation by only playing the note changes in the LH.
20:59. Playing the LH one ‘unique’ chord at a time – for understanding the harmonic foundation and starting the mental/technical ‘assimilation’ process.
23:34. Using the ‘magnifying glass’ method for mastering the uncomfortable chord transitions in bars 17-18.
24:45. The interrupted (deceptive) cadence in bar 21 – and its meaning.
26:21. Continuing to learn the chords independently.
26:46. Practicing the chords as written (with repetitions), with pedal. The role of the pedal in facilitating the smooth ‘double escapement’ connections.
30:05. RH practice. The first 2 phrases (bars 1-8). The simple ‘steps’ of the melody – and how to make the repeated seconds sound interesting.
31:42. Where to find the rest of this tutorial. Conclusion.
Get access to the continuation of this tutorial (where I demonstrate how to practice the right hand, and then how to combine both hands together) by joining my Piano Coaching Program at PianoCareerAcademy.com!
In the Members Area you will discover many hundreds of other exclusive lessons for all levels (including step-by-step courses and interactive projects) that will help you to play freely, expressively and brilliantly.
It’s time to hear your playing come alive and shine!
Recommended free tutorial:
The Piano Intoning Technique and the Illusion of Legato.
Recommended tutorials (available on PianoCareerAcademy.com):
What is Rubato? Origins and Meaning. How to Create an Expressive Rubato in Chopin’s Prelude op. 28 No. 6.
Why Mindful Practice Is Even More Important Than You Think.
Practice with inspiration,
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