A Plethora of Preludes – Prokofiev, Kabalevsky, Scriabin, Shostakovich

The year is slipping away – there are so many Preludes to discover! And so little time to write about them all … So here is a quick canter through a few more Russian composers’ offerings.

Prokofiev’s charming Prelude in C Major comes from his Suite Op 12, a delightful collection of early pieces composed between 1906 and 1913. Here is his own piano roll recording, and below that, the transcription he made for harp.

Each of Kabalevsky’s 24 Preludes is based on a Russian folksong. Here is Horowitz performing the melancholy No 8 in F sharp minor, and the explosive No 16 in B flat minor. Wow.

The earliest prelude in Scriabin’s catalogue  is the lovely Op 2 No 2, and  I’ve written before about Scriabin’s Prelude for the Left Hand, Op 9 No 1. His 24 Preludes Op 11 were composed over the eight years between 1888-1896, and there are a few YouTube recordings of Scriabin himself in performances made for piano rolls.

No 11 in B major, is a particular favourite of mine. Here is Yuja Wang:

For comparison, here are Scriabin’s five Preludes Op 16 of 1894-95, in an assortment of keys, the first in B Major. A magical ending. Far-off bells, perhaps …

The pianist is Igor Zhukov.

Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes were written during the winter of 1932-33. Following the familiar circle of 5ths, each has a well-defined character, expressed succinctly. This one in D flat major, performed by the composer, is imbued with wry humour.

Shostakovich also composed his own set of Preludes and Fugues – more of that anon.

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