Rachmaninov’s Prelude No. 10 in G flat is a lesser known prelude from Op. 23. The piece is a tearful one built on a sigh motif that often erases the bar lines for the listener. For these preludes most pianists try to guess Rachmaninov’s programs. (Moisewitch once discussed with Rachmaninov the program for Op. 32, No. 10 in Bm, so we know they exist.) For me this piece at hand is a sorrowful, parting farewell. Perhaps it is in a time of war when a young soldier is about to depart on a train headed for the front. His distraught fiancée is inconsolable. In the run up to the coda, the couple shares a too fleeting moment of splendor before the soldier boards the train. The music ends in a G flat cadence played forte suggesting a bright ray of hope. For me, this is a piece to be played from the inside out, not from the outside in.
Although it’s a short piece, it cannot be underestimated. Much of the singing melody is in the left hand. But there are intricate duets present too. So the pianist must continuously distinguish foreground from background. Also the piece requires much attention to voice leading and melodic voicing of chords which contribute to the long line. This prelude has two climaxes, or “crucial points” as Rachmaninov called them, contrary to conventional advice given to young composers at the conservatories. Personally I don’t believe that this weakens the structure at all. In fact, Op. 23, No. 6 likewise has two climaxes and seemingly to good overall effect.
The most difficult technical challenge comes in the last quarter of the piece nearing the coda. The ecstatic rolls in the right hand are huge and difficult to execute at tempo even with forearm rotation. For anyone who would play this piece, I urge caution while practicing this particular section.
I hope you’ll enjoy hearing this piece.
Piano: Baldwin Model L Artist Grand (6’3”) with lid fully open
Recorder: Korg MR-1000
Microphones: Earthworks TC-20 matched pair of small diaphragm omni-directional condenser mics in A-B configuration
DavidRachmaninov - Prelude in G flat Major, Op. 23, No. 10