Work: Preludes (10) for Piano, Op. 23: no 5 in G minor, Alla marcia
About This Work
This richly resonant piano work is comprised of two contrasting moods. The first of these is a minor-key march of a Spanish or Italian marching band variety. The melody, built mostly on broken chords, is clearly heard in the bass register surrounded
by quick "ta-ta-dah" brass rhythmic figures played on full, repeated chords. The end of the first melodic phrase scatters into wonderfully syncopated and angular figures.
Up to this point, the general dynamic has been that of a greatly held-back intensity (at "piano" level). Suddenly, powerful major harmonies ascend in the "ta-ta-dah" rhythm, propelled on the fourth beat by quick, scale-wise octaves leading into the next chord. This thrilling passage builds from forte to fortissimo and concludes with a concerto-like crescendo of repeated chords over a deep bass pedal point, followed by an electrifying cascade of octaves leading back into the first subject now played with fortissimo energy.
The theme gradually subsides by a series of chromatic chords and single notes over a single pedal point to a bare whisper. This segues directly into the second mood which is that of a Romantic melody in octaves played over sweeping waves of arpeggios. This lyrical strain recalls a greatly emotional, perhaps nostalgic, experience although the context remains programmatically non-specific providing no clues as to the cause of this feeling. The tempo here is somewhat elastic and rubato. The only element from the march section worked into this mood is the simple figure of two quick sixteenths used to bridge parts of that theme.
The initial mood begins to re-establish itself (at a pianississimo level) and ascends through chromatics back to the initial key, and then continues even further to reach the subdominant key (C minor). Even then the chromatic alterations do not stop until the tension has built up to the point of return of the crashing, ascending major chords of the initial bridge. This proceeds in the original key to the quickly descending octave cascade and the final recapitulation of the march theme at a fortissimo dynamic.
Rachmaninov continues his wonderfully coloristic chromatic alterations of the original chords into the diminishing coda which ends the piece with teasing variations on the "ta-ta-dah" rhythm concluding in a final flurry of arpeggios which ascends to the high treble.
Composed two years earlier than the other preludes in Opus 23, the G Minor Prelude has become a popular work and a standard on piano recitals.
-- "Blue" Gene Tyranny
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