Chopin Preludes for Piano

‘The Preludes are strange pieces. I confess I imagined them differently, and designed in the grandest style, like his Etudes. But almost the opposite is true: they are sketches, beginnings of Etudes or, so to speak, ruins, eagle wings, a wild motley of pieces’ Schumann, 1839.

Chopin’s Preludes have since come to be regarded as one of the monuments of the early Romantic movement in music, and Schumann’s equivocal attitude is at first sight surprising. After all, he himself was the composer par excellence of short, characteristic pieces for piano. Jealousy can be discounted, Schumann being readier than most creative artists to recognise and hail genius when he came across it. More likely he had settled in his mind on Chopin being a composer ‘in the grandest style’. What disturbed Schumann was possibly the fusion Chopin had achieved between brevity and wealth of content: a specific gravity that, note for note over a much shorter span, compares with that of Beethoven at his best.



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"Perlemuter plays with such depth that something new about Chopin's music seems to be revealed on each listening."


Here we find Perlemuter at his most consistent, his most consonant and his most intriguing. He’s strong, virile when necessary and he avoids any externalised romantic show. His Preludes have an integrity about them which is not granitic but which impresses through sheer authority. That said, his technique is not what it was, and unsympathetic auditors will find some of these performances too clinical in detail and too cool in feeling.

Jonathan Woolf,

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