Frédéric Chopin: Raindrop Prelude

Context

Frédéric Chopin’s Prelude Op.28, No.15, also known as the Raindrop Prelude is part of the composer’s 24 preludes. This particular prelude is the longest in the set, lasting between 5-7 minutes. A large proportion of the Op.28 collection was composed during Chopin and George Sand’s visit at a monastery in Valldemossa, Mallorca in 1838. During their stay there was a terrible storm, and whilst playing the piano Chopin had a dream (as recalled by Sands):

 

“He saw himself drowned in a lake. Heavy drops of icy water fell in a regular rhythm on his breast, and when I made him listen to the sound of the drops of water indeed falling in rhythm on the roof, he denied having heard it. He was even angry that I should interpret this in terms of imitative sounds. He protested with all his might – and he was right to – against the childishness of such aural imitations. 

His genius was filled with the mysterious sounds of nature, but transformed into sublime equivalents in musical thought, and not through slavish imitation of the actual external sounds.”

 

In Sand’s records it doesn’t state what prelude Chopin played for her on that occasion, although most believe it to be No.15, due to the gentle repetition of an Ab that has been likened to the “gentle patter” of rain. 

 

The Music

Opening with a gentle theme in the home key of Db major, the insistent Ab is becomes more prominent as the music moves along. A change over to C# minor shows a development of character, as a low bass theme is sung out. The dominant pedal remains very present here, as does the consistent repetition of the Ab. 

One Chopin researcher commented on the C# minor section saying:

 

“This C# minor portion…affects one like an oppressive dream; the re-entrance of the opening Db major, which dispels the dreadful nightmare, comes upon one with the smiling freshness of dear, familiar nature – only after these horrors of the imagination can its serene beauty be fully appreciated.”

 

The more intense approach to this middle section perhaps signifies the drowning element of Chopin’s dream. Being trapped by ice and water and the panic that would lead to. The subtle change back into the home key of Db brings back the calm serenity of the opening. As the above quote suggests, the true beauty of the opening material can be appreciated in its entirety by the end of the prelude. 

 

Final Thoughts

Frédéric Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude has remained one of the composer’s most-loved works. The serenity felt within the music makes it an ideal work to listen to when one wants to practice mindfulness and meditation. 

 

Happy Reading!

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