Archive for Jan, 2019

Chopin’s Preludes for the Piano

I think that I have done this before: listen in sequence to Chopin’s 24 Preludes for piano while documenting the keys that they sound in. The opportunity came today while listening to Through the Night on the BBC Radio 3 website.

So here we go, starting with the Prelude in C major (if it was):

  • C major – solid, no change
  • A minor – solid, no change
  • G major – ditto
  • E minor – ditto
  • D major – shifted to E flat major as the opening material re-appears a few bars into this short piece
  • B minor – solid, no change
  • A major – here this little jewel was set its A major ring
  • F# minor – this furious piece had moved into G minor by the end
  • E major – was in F major (though with significantly more sonority than I associate with F, a weak key sonically
  • C# minor – D minor with a feeling of sharps around
  • B major = C major
  • G# minor = A minor
  • F# major = G major
  • E flat minor – moved to E minor half way through
  • D flat major (Raindrop) – D major with middle section in D minor rather than the C# minor it is written in
  • B flat minor – this wild composition was of uncertain tonality except where a few bars should have been in D flat major and were in D
  • A flat major – the song was in A major at the start. At the recapitulation of the tune it sounded in A flat but felt as if it was courting disaster until the last section where it was fully A flat major – perhaps the effect of the pedal low A flats in the left hand
  • F minor – no key identifiable
  • E flat major – largely undefined but occasionally the colour of E flat was discernible. It did end in E flat.
  • C minor – solid chords of C minor
  • B flat major – in key including the G flat major section
  • G minor – the first note of this Prelude is the B flat of the previous Prelude, so heard in sequence this was grounded in its flat key
  • F major – no threat
  • D minor – indeed, ending with 2 powerful Ds at the bottom of the piano.

I wonder how this compares to my previous exercise with these Preludes (heard on an aeroplane flight, I seem to remember)?

Bright Blue Music

Fortunately I am not a synaesthete. If I were and keys were seen as colours, I would be having a nervous breakdown, or would live in psychadelic world a shifting shades or multiple swirling colours.

On the radio is Bright Blue Music by Michael Torke, who does see colours with keys. This piece is in D major, his bright blue key. A lively piece which managed not to shift from the chosen key, either for the musicians (as intended) or for me (as not considered). Can I assume that Torke’s music is so true to its colourful key that even my wobbly key sense lost its wobble? I doubt it, D is not one of the major shifters in my key cupboard.

For me D major in lively mood is a burnished Brown colour – wood or brass. Poetic not synaesthetic. But real nonetheless. This is probably why it is less shifty than some other keys.

That said, Saint Saens’ 1st Piano Concerto (D major) which I have only got to know since being given the Jean-Philippe set last year is in E flat to my new hearing. So perhaps Mr Torke’s writing palate does capture something of the key’s true character when it is in high spirits.

What colour would the slow 2nd movement of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet be for Mr Torke, I wonder?

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