Sunday, December 30, 2012

Preludes in all 24 major and minor keys

Preludes in all 24 major and minor keys

Many composers in classical music have written sets of preludes in all major and minor, so 24, keys. The first well-known composer who wrote such a set was J.S. Bach, with his Well-Tempered Clavier. He wrote two sets, and each prelude is followed by a fuga. So 2*24*2=96 pieces. After him, at least 20 composers created similar sets (though often without fuga's) for piano, in all 24 keys. This blog links three sets, the prelude sets of Chopin, Scriabin and Kapustin.


Chopin's well-known set is Opus 28, 24 preludes for piano solo. The preludes are in the order of the circle of fifths, with major and minor keys alternating. The preludes which are linked below are played by Arthur Rubinstein.

Interesting with this sequence is that all preludes in major are numbered odd, and all preludes in minor are numbered even. Also note that, because of this and the properties of the circle of fifths, the number of sharps/flats is equal for all pairs. So 1 and 2 have no sharps nor flats, 3 and 4 have one sharp, 5 and 6 have two, this is increasing until 13 and 14 (having either 6 flats or 6 sharps), then it switches to 5 flats for 15 and 16, this number is decreasing, until finally 23 and 24 have one flat.


Scriabin's set is Opus 11, 24 preludes for piano solo. He used exactly the same sequence as Chopin did. Number 5 was written in Amsterdam, in 1896. Number 8 is magnificently (and slowly) played by his friend Rachmaninov (!), here. Below are links to all preludes, played by Sofronitsky, a famous Scriabin interpreter and also his son-in-law. Scriabin started another set but did not finish that set. Preludes of this unfinished set are spread over Opus 13, 15, 16, and 17.


Kapustin's set is Opus 53, 24 preludes for piano solo. Kapustin used the same sequence as Chopin and Scriabin. These preludes are written in 1989, and denoted as in Jazz Style. Writing Jazz idioms in classical forms is Kapustin's speciality. Kapustin's set of preludes is marvelous. Below you find youtube links to all 24 preludes, played by the composer himself, Nikolai Kapustin. Besides this Opus 53, Kapustin wrote 20 piano sonata's, 6 piano concerto's, and much more. He is on the way to become the best componist of the 20th or 21th century! But still unknown to most people. Kapustin did also write another set of 24 preludes and fuga's in all keys, Opus 82. This set is not discussed here (because of similarity - it is more similar to Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier).

I could have added more sets, for example, I like for example Rachmaninov too. But the sets below are quite similar, using the same sequence, with composer names all ending with "in" :-), so I finished it this way. The images of the circles of fifths are a bit inspired on the Wiki source, but for the rest created from scratch for this blog page.

Enjoy the music, 72 preludes.

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