PRELUDE IN A-FLAT MAJOR, OPUS 28. NO. 17
ERIC LU, PIANO
Is there a “most beautiful” Chopin prelude? I don’t know, is there a most beautiful flower? I do know that I personally favor the Chopin Preludes that are in major keys. A few months ago, I posted the “Raindrop” prelude in D-flat Major (Music I Love #215), and today I’d like to post my own personal favorite of the 24 preludes, the prelude in A-flat Major.
If you recall, Chopin wrote these 24 preludes with the same goal in mind that Bach had when he composed his Well-Tempered Clavier, which was to write a piece in every major and every minor key. In so doing, he arranged the preludes as they appear in the circle of fifths, presenting a prelude in a given major key, followed by another prelude in its relative minor key, which is easier to illustrate this way: C major-A minor, G major-E minor, D major-B minor, A major-F-sharp minor, and so on until he reached the end of the circle with F major-D minor. It’s hardly necessary to know this to appreciate any of the preludes, but it is interesting.
Chopin composed the bulk of these preludes in a disastrous summertime trip to the island of Majorca with his lover, George Sand. The disaster had nothing to do with her, rather it was the horrendously bad weather combined with the ostracizing the couple experienced there because they were not married. If ever there is a real-life illustration of a composer producing a sublime work in the midst of tribulations, I think the Preludes would qualify.
And this particular one, in A-flat major, is one that I find breathtakingly beautiful, so attractive.
Eric Lu was a competitor in the 2015 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. This is one of his performances from the third stage of the competition. As you can hear, he is an excellent musician, very communicative. I really like his performance.
Just a word about piano competitions. Going the “competition route” is—regardless of what one thinks of its merits–or lack of–has been the pathway for career success for pianists and other solo classical instrumentalists for decades. In the piano world, there are top tier competitions, such as the Tchaikovsky in Moscow, the Van Cliburn in Dallas, the Leeds in England, the Franz Liszt in Utrecht—and the Chopin in Warsaw. There are, of course, scores of other competitions, all of which seem to produce increasingly impressive winners all over the globe—and maybe especially in the United States.
But these “top tier” competitions are the standard by which the others get measured. Contestants must qualify, via recorded performances, to even participate in person in the preliminary round. All of these competitions have multiple rounds, in which the number of competitors decreases in each round, and the level of playing increases. There were five rounds in the 2015 Chopin competition. Perhaps it is not even necessary to say that EVERY competitor in the PRELIMINARIES is a major talent. By the time final rounds are reached, the level of playing—and the nerves of steel—are apparent for all to hear.
Eric Lu was the fourth prize winner in the 2015 Chopin Competition.