Episode 74: Chopin the Obsessive

Prelude in D-flat major, Op. 28, No. 15, 'Raindrop'

rc-obsessive-200"You feel this with Chopin, that’s there’s this vice-like grip over what’s going on in the music." - Orion Weiss

In earlier episodes of this series, we’ve noted the contrasts in Chopin’s music. The sweet and the salty. The dreamy aria... broken up by a fiery interlude.

But there’s ONE series of pieces in Chopin’s output that follow a different path, and where Chopin’s attention to piano pedagogy can turn into quasi-sadistic physical – and psychological pain. They are, according to pianist Orion Weiss, the Preludes.

"They’re so obsessive on the way the focus on one little thing – very small motifs and very small applications of technique. So many of them have this almost minimalist repetition of figures. Just one figure for an entire accompaniment. Sometimes, like No. 15 in D-flat major, it has just this repeated A-flat the entire time... It goes back and forth between being calming – sort of a soft, reassuring maybe throbbing of your loved one’s heart – to becoming... this terrifying , repeated, and insistent and frightening thing.

There’s something, and it’s really hard to piece together, and maybe it is just the obsessive quality about all of them. They’re very focused. There are very few that change texture or affect in the way that the Ballades do, or even the Scherzos. They sort of stick with something and go and go and go, and then it’s over."

In this Prelude, sometimes called the “Raindrop,” Chopin gets stuck on one note. Sometimes it's called an A-flat, sometimes it's a G-sharp…but it beats on and on and on: no fewer than 492 drops in a five and a half minute shower. - Benjamin K. Roe

 

Radio Chopin Episode 74: Chopin the Obsessive



Prelude in D-flat major, Op. 28, No. 15, 'Raindrop'