Performance guide for 24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 41 by Lera Auerbach

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Elena Victoria Nezhdanova-Cunningham (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Joseph DiPiazza

Abstract: The 24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 41 by Lera Auerbach was composed in 1998 as a commissioned work for the Caramoor International Festival. In 1999 Auerbach further explored the 24 Prelude format producing two chamber works: 24 Preludes for Violin and Piano, Op. 46; and 24 Preludes for Cello and Piano, Op. 47. There are two additional sets of 24 Preludes in her collection, which are transcriptions of Dmitri Shostakovich’s 24 Piano Preludes, Op. 34 for cello and piano (2008), and for viola and piano (2010).The term Prelude originated in the fifteenth century for keyboard instruments, such as the organ, and for string instruments, such as the lute. It was a short piece that preceded other music, such as a fantasia or a toccata, during which the musician improvised and checked the tuning of the strings for instrumentalists and singers. In church organ music, a Prelude was also used to establish pitch and mode for liturgical service. Development of the equal temperament tuning system allowed the performer to modulate without the need to retune the instrument. During the 18th century, Johann Sebastian Bach composed Preludes and Fugues, The Well-Tempered Clavier, in all twenty-four major and minor keys. Several noted composers, such as Fryderyk Chopin, Alexander Scriabin, Claude Debussy, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Dmitri Kabalevsky explored the 24 Prelude format as a unified set of pieces. The convenience of a short Prelude allowed composers to group them into sets of twenty-four contrasting pieces following either the chromatic succession of major and minor keys, the sequenced circle of fifths progression, or as short tone-poem pieces written in unrelated keys. Auerbach’s 24 Preludes follow the structure of circle of fifth pairings modeled after Chopin’s Preludes, Op. 28 and Scriabin’s 24 Preludes, Op. 11. Her Preludes are short tone-poems that feature polystylistic writing, harmonic contrasts, color, and texture. Due to unfamiliar and complex musical language, it is often challenging to grasp the meaning of new music. Without an awareness of the composer’s life and an understanding of his or her unique style, the musical meaning may become distorted or misunderstood. This is why it is beneficial when composers play and promote their music, or when performing artists with a personal connection to the composer advocate their new music through performances and recordings. In recent years, Auerbach’s music has received considerable attention as she is becoming one of the most widely performed composers of her generation. As a virtuoso pianist, she continues the tradition of pianist-composers of previous centuries and performs her own solo piano works in recitals. Her music is intricately interesting, and deserves further attention in the area of research and performance. To further explore the concept of 24 Preludes as a standing work, Auerbach brings new sound, new ideas, and new compositional possibilities. This set of Preludes is an excellent addition to the solo piano repertoire and to the 24 Preludes collections of music literature. The total performance time for Lera Auerbach’s 24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 41 is approximately 40 minutes. The motivic and textural connections within the Preludes give this work a sense of unity. Auerbach’s own comments on the Preludes accentuate the importance of the order, which is intended to help its overall comprehension. However, it is possible to program these Preludes as a shorter set. In 1999 she proposed a version of this work as Suite for Piano, Op. 41a, which is a compilation of nine Preludes from the 24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 41. She grouped these Preludes per contrasting moods, and did not present them in their original order. Whether these 24 Preludes are performed as a complete set or as a suite, Auerbach’s usage of the former compositional format is original and her musical language is deeply personal. Lera Auerbach’s other two sets of original 24 Preludes composed as chamber works receive more attention from performers in recitals and recordings. When more artists are involved in the performance of new music, greater exposure will be provided. The purpose of this document is to bring attention to the 24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 41 from a solo performer’s perspective, to provide a performance guide, and a pedagogic analysis of selected Preludes.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
24 Preludes, 24 Preludes for piano, Op. 41, Elena Nezhdanova, Lera Auerbach, Pedagogic guide, Piano
Auerbach, Lera. $t Preludes, $m piano, $n op. 41
Piano music $x Interpretation (Phrasing, dynamics, etc.)
Piano $x Performance

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