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F. Chopin's Piano Prelude No, 15 in D flat major Analysis (1838)


Chopin's piano music is a perfect example of the Romantic ideal for expressing the poetic feelings and emotions through the medium of sound. Chopin was a fitting example of the Romantic artist - he was lonely, aloof and withdrawn - a talented but tragic figure, dying as he did at a relatively young age of 39. Chopin was born in Poland and reflected his love for his homeland of Poland through the use of Polish folk melodies and dance rhythms. Now, let's have a look at his Piano Prelude No. 15 in D flat major, Op. 28.

This Prelude, more commonly known for 'Raindrop', belongs to a body of works by Chopin called The Preludes, which was written between 1835 and 1838 to then be published in 1839. The 'Raindrop' Prelude is one of the longest at 9 bars, and in it we can see a clearly worked out ternary ABA structure with a contrasting B section in C# minor.

A prelude is a brief 'opening' piece that sets a particular mood and is linked to a following fugue in the same key. We expect the prelude to be followed by something else! But, the 24 Chopin pieces are all stand-alone preludes, each in a different major and minor key. Each prelude is meant to depict a specific idea or emotion.

The 'Raindrop' Prelude was written during Chopin's period of recuperation as the deserted monastery in Valldemossa, Majorca. The piece was written during a storm and the title relates to the dripping of raindrops from the roof of the monastery. In the piece, this is represented by the continuous repeating A flats in section a and the continuous repeating G# in section B where the key changes to C# minor.

Section A
  • Time signature is in 4/4 and in the key of D flat major.
  • Repetitive use of A flat in left hand (quaver notes).
  • Has a cantabile melody line.
  • Uses the pedal to product lots of subtle pedalling effects.
  • homophonic texture.
  • Has graceful ornamentations (decorations) which also use rebarto (slows down tempo because decorations are expressive).
  • The use of spreading arpeggios in the left hand.
Section A is a very delicate section which the whole time i in piano (soft). As a pianist that can play this piece, this section in some ways is the most expressive with the main use of rebarto and graduate crescendos (to mezzo piano). The raindrop can also be heard with the first three notes played in this piece: F, D flat and A flat. This represents the raindrop motive making it sound like the raindrops are falling.

Section B
  • Key changes to C sharp minor: repetitive A flat goes to a G sharp note.
  • Crescendos being used to build tension when it is released as the dynamics go fortissimo.
  • Left hand slurs and have crochet notes that rise adding to the build-up.
  • Repeats twice.
  • Pedal still used.
This section is also quite expressive through the dynamics mainly: how the crescendo builds tension and almost explodes as it hits the chord of E and B.

The Bridge
This section of the Prelude links section B back to section A.
  • Still in the key of C# minor.
  • Pedal still being used.
  • Total different idea compared to section A or B.
  • Shorter than Section A and B b about half.
  • Links back to section A.
Now, this bridge for a pianist is an absolute killer (in my opinion!) and is by far the hardest part of the pieece. However, if the pianist gets it right, it will link perfectly smoothly straight back to the key of D flat major and section A.

Section A again (this time a little different)
  • Same tune from the first section A is repeated in this section. 
  • Different ornaments with more decoration and rebarto (virtuosi).
  • finished half short to go into the codetta which is basically a short coda. This rounds the whole piece to an end.
  • Long crotchet descending notes in forte are heard making the piece exposed adding to the intensity and delicacy.
  • Pedal still used.
  • Ritenuto used at far end to bring the piece to a perfect end.
The last section of this piece can be seen as one of the most important sections too as finishes the piece. This section is where the piece is exposed the most which flows with the whole prelude : starts off with some texture, increases in section B, and then fades out to the codetta.

About Will Green

A student in England studying Automotive Engineering with Motorsport, Will created Ask Will Online back in 2010 to help students revise and bloggers make money. You can follow AskWillOnline via @AskWillOnline.

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