Classical Music | Piano Music

Sergei Rachmaninov

Prelude Op. 3, No. 2, in c-sharp minor  Play

Alessio Bax Piano

Recorded on 08/28/2007, uploaded on 01/12/2009

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

The five pieces of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Morceaux de fantaisie, op. 3 are one of the earliest indications of the composer’s burgeoning mature and individual style. Composed in 1892, the year of his graduation from the Moscow Conservatory, Rachmaninoff dedicated the set of pieces to his harmony professor, Anton Arensky. The work’s title, meaning “fantasy pieces,” alludes to their being, in essence, character pieces, and not to any freedom of form. Indeed, nearly all five pieces embody a regular ternary form.

Undeniably the most popular piece from the set, as well as being one of Rachmaninoff’s most beloved compositions for the piano, is the Prélude in C-sharp minor. Actually the first of the five pieces to be composed, it is different from its companions in shunning the influence of Tchaikovsky and giving a foreshadowing glimpse of the later mature style that Rachmaninoff would develop. In the bleak and dismal key of C-sharp minor, the Prélude opens with austere fortissimo octaves that become the work’s principal motif, heard continuously from its second repetition beneath an even more dreary sounding melody. This melody, bleak and cold, is one of the most recognizable in Rachmaninoff’s oeuvre, and has garnered the Prélude the epithet “The Bells of Moscow.” A faster agitato episode follows the close of the principal theme but does not escape its pessimism, driving forward with a descending motif that struggles to break free, only to come crashing down into a colossal restatement of the first theme written out across four staves. Quietly, however, the Prélude comes to a close with chords that ring in the listener’s ear like the toll of bells through the chilled air of midwinter. The piece was an instant success for the composer and he was virtually required on all occasions to perform it as an encore at his recitals. When combined with his two later sets of preludes, opp. 23 and 32, it completes an entire set of preludes in all twenty-four major and minor keys.      Joseph DuBose


Prelude Op. 3, No. 2, in c-sharp minor       Sergei Rachmaninov

Perhaps the most renowned composition by Sergei Rachmaninoff during his lifetime was the Prelude in c-sharp minor. Fresh from his studies at the Moscow Conservatory in 1892, he wrote it as part of a group of five Morceaux de fantaisie, Op. 3, but it was during his concert tours after he left Russia in 1917 that the piece invariably was demanded on his programs (and if he did not play it as part of the concert, it was demanded as an encore). Whatever his thoughts about the piece at the time he wrote it, he certainly never envisioned a cycle of preludes in all the major and minor keys. Nevertheless, he returned to the genre in 1901, composing a work in g minor (it would become No. 5 in his next collection), and in 1903 wrote nine others, publishing the group as his Op. 23. Rachmaninoff would complete the cycle of keys with 13 additional preludes, composed in 1910 and published as Op. 32. Although each collection is carefully arranged to alternate mood and key, there is otherwise no strict logic to the sequence, nor, as with the two collections of études-tableaux, is there a need to perform them as a group.     Alessio Bax

Listeners' Comments        (You have to be logged in to leave comments)

I'd love to see his piano after all that banging at the end when it's like quadruple fortississimo!

Submitted by matthewcontreras on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 20:56. Report abuse

symphony no.2 eflat

Submitted by kingaroo on Wed, 02/04/2015 - 18:51. Report abuse