Frederic Chopin

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Frederic Chopin

Chopin was born in Poland in 1810, lots of his music uses Polish folk tunes and dance rhythms. He died in Paris in 1849.

He made a name for himself in Vienna before moving to Paris. As well as composing he also taught and performed music.

He composed a lot of piano music and has a reputation as a tragic romantic composer because he was ill a lot and died young.

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Ternary Form

Prelude No.15 in Db major is quite short (it's only 89 bars long) but can be divided up into four main sections. The first, Section A lasts frm bars 1-27, and section B from bars 28-75. A short bit of section A is repeated in bars 76-81, then the piece finishes with a coda in bars 81-89. Unlike some of the other preludes, it has a clear structure,  Ternary form.

Section A is in Db mjaor, while section B is in C# minor. Enharmoically, C# Minor is the tonic minor of Db major. Chopin explores other keys in both sections.

It's called the Raindrop prelude because of a repeated quaver on Ab in the left hand part ( it chnages to a G# when the key chnages to C# Minor. This note is repeated throughout the piece.

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Section A - Raindrop

1) This prelude is marked sostenuto, it doesnt just mean sustained here, but it should also have a slow held back tempo. The pianist has to use the pedal a lot, it helps to sustain the notes.

2) You can hear the 'Raindrop' note in the first bar, and it continues throughout the piece.

3) The first melodic phrase lasts 4 bars and is marked p. The first three notes of the melody are decending. These four bars are repeated with no changes . There is an ornament in the fourth bar. Its a turn, the turn isn't played in the eighth bar.

4) Another melodic idea starts in the last two quavers of bar 8. It's a four bar melody and the key moves towards  Ab minor. It's followed by a variation of the tune.

5) From bars 14-20, the 'Raindrop' note is played on F and not Ab.

6) The melody goes through Bb minor,  then back to Db major for the last bars of this section, where you can hear the opening melody again.

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Section B

Section B is very different to Section A. It's in a minor key, and sounds much more dramatic.
The melody is in crotchets in the bass part. The melody is played underneath the 'Raindrop' notes. In this section they are G#s. It's marked sotto voce, which means 'in an undertone. (it should be soft and quiet.

In bar 35, Chopin starts to build up the texture by doubling the 'raindrop' in octaves - Its feels powerful.

The dynamics build up gradually until bar 43, where the music drops back down to p. It then gets louder again, building up to ff in bar 56. There are lots of accents in Section B. This is quite a contrast to section A which was all p and had no accents at all.

In bars 64-67 the repeated G#s in the top line form an inverted pedal. An inverted pedal is a held note.

Bar 75 is a transition bar between Section B and the repeat of section A. The last four quavers of bar 75 prepare for the key change in the next bar.

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Section A repeated and the Coda.

1) In bar 76, the piece returns to the key of Db major and repeats section A.
2) The opening phrase is played again just with a slightly different ornament. It is more chromatic and has 10 notes instead of 7.
3) Chopin suggests that the piece is coming to the end by using the term smorzando which means 'dying away' in bar 79.
4) In bar 81, the melody is cut short to make way for the Coda.

Coda

1) The coda starts on the last beat of bar 81, and last until bar 89. The melodic line in bars 81 and 83 has the highest notes of the prelude. These are the only bars that are not accompained by the raindrop quavers.
2)In bar 84 the raindrops come back on the dominant note until the final tonic chord.
3)The coda starts off as f and then drops down to p. The final two bars are pp, the quietest part of the whole piece.
4) The pieve slows down toward the end with a gentle ritenuto.

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