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Rachmaninoff: Prelude Op. 3 No. 2 in C-sharp Minor

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Sergey Rachmaninoff - Morceaux de Fantaisie :
Prelude, Op. 3 No. 2
Prelude Op. 3 No. 2  in C-sharp Minor by Rachmaninoff piano sheet music
Key: C-sharp Minor Year: 1892
Level: 8 Period: Late Romantic
piano sheet music Piano score: PS Instructive - all parts (340 kB)
piano sheet music Piano score: PS Urtext (82 kB)
piano sheet music Piano score: Scanned score (849 kB)
piano music mp3 recording Prelude Op. 3 No. 2 - FREE SAMPLE (mp3 file)

Rachmaninoff made his first success as a composer by his pianoforte pieces, especially by the Preludes, which have almost established a new form of composition for the instrument. Several of his songs and pianoforte pieces, notably the famous Prelude in C# minor, have attained immense popularity.

Poetic Idea

From the fortissimo statement of the opening motive to the pianissimo chords at the close, there is an atmosphere of mystery, and sometimes even of tragedy.

The first Section of thirteen measures may be likened to the solemn processional of some ritualistic ceremony; but in contrast, the chromatic sequential phrases in the second Section (mm. 14-42) are almost frantic in their mad onward rush. The return of the solemn melody in the third Section is in a triumphant mood - a mood of grandeur and power, as if illustrating the inevitable survival of some great and mighty truth.

The Coda (m. 55 to the end) seems to suggest reflection and mystery, and to ask a question - a question that is left unanswered.

Method of Study

The fingering of the chords in the first Section should be carefully studied, for legato chord - connection and phrasing depend largely upon correct fingering. These chords are to be played with both hands exactly together, and are not to be arpeggiated. The only instances when it is necessary to "leap" in both hands from the melody note to the chords, are on the first heats of mm. 51 and 53.

Special attention is called to the unusual fingering in mm. 12 and 13; 1-3 is the only possible fingering for a correct interpretation of the "moaning" of the legato A-G# in the right-hand part.

In the second Section, mm. 14-42, the keys forming the broken chords must be covered by their proper fingers, in order to ensure correct hand-shape for each chord position.


The first descending motive of three fortissimo tones should be given very slowly, in fact, twice as slowly as what follows. These tones epitomize the mood of the whole composition.

It will be noticed that in the first thirteen measures a somber melody is carried in the bass and played by both hands, while a second melody (in eighth-notes) floats above-sometimes ethereally, but later, as in mm. 6-7, becoming more intense. The chords in the first half of mm. 2-3 skip upward a minor third, but in m. 4 there is an upward interval of a fifth in the same kind of passage; to accentuate this larger leap, the G# in the right-hand part should receive an added impulse. (See also mm. 8-9.)

The chromatically altered D (natural), on the second half of the third beat of mm. 2, 3, and 8, and on the second heat of m. 10, also requires a slight accent.

It is advisable to somewhat accelerate the tempo in mm. 6 and 10; this acceleration will be very effective if it is not exaggerated. The pedal indicated at m. 6 produces a slightly blurred harmonic background that is quite in keeping with the character of the Prelude.

The agitated second Section should work up to the tremendous climax beginning in the middle of m. 35, where the triplet chords are hammered out for seven and a half measures with all possible force.

The return of the solemn melody in m. 45, although in slower tempo, brings with it no diminution of force. The eighth-note melody, which at first "floated" above in three-voiced chords in each hand, is now stressed in four-voiced chords in each hand, while the double octaves state the majestic theme with the tone of a full orchestra. Almost the entire range of the keyboard is covered in four­staff notation.

Mm. 49 and 53 are slightly accelerated, as were mm. 6 and 1 0 in the first Section.

In the Coda (beginning at m. 55) the voice next the top voice of the chords in both right and left hands gives the harmonic color to these chords, which are so peculiarly Russian in character.

Mm. 60-61 - the last faint reiteration of the unanswered question - must be given pianissimo.
--Leopold Godowsky

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