The First Prelude’s agitated questioning is enlivened by cunning fluctuations of rhythm and accent and is contrasted with the Second’s sluggish and tortuous pregression. Chopin moves in the G major No 3 to a world of rippling sunlight before returning us in the next to a gloomier clime. No 7 is a wistful, sixteen-bar Mazurka, while No 8 is the first of several large-scale Preludes. Here the theme’s dark-hued passion ebbs and flows beneath figuration of a Rachmaninovian swirl and glitter No 15 is the celebrated ’Raindrop’ Prelude, whilst six explosive chords preface the brilliant fury of No 16. The twenty-fourth Prelude is suitably bold and ambitious and ends the set in a mood of eloquent defiance.
Few more distinguished pendants to such music would be possible than the isolated C sharp minor Prelude, opus 45, which is as recondite and subtle as late Brahms.
The Grande polonaise brillante was composed in 1830, although the Andante Spianato was not added until 1834. Very much in Chopin’s early virtuosic style, contemporary critics declaimed it for lacking substance. Meanwhile, the Polonaise-fantaisie is a far cry from such early fancy ad exuberance, demonstrating daring progressions and the greates imaginative subtlety.