Three Preludes (Gershwin)

Last updated

Three Preludes are short piano pieces by George Gershwin, which were first performed by the composer at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in 1926. Each prelude is a well-known example of early-20th-century American classical music, as influenced by jazz.


Gershwin originally planned to compose 24 preludes for this group of works. The number was reduced to seven in manuscript form, and then reduced to five in public performance, and further decreased to three when first published in 1926. Two of the remaining preludes not published were rearranged for solo violin and piano and published as Short Story . Of the other two, the Prelude in G was eliminated by the publisher because somewhat similar music had already appeared in Gershwin's Concerto in F. The other was excluded for unknown reasons.

Gershwin dedicated his Preludes to friend and musical advisor Bill Daly.

The pieces have been arranged for solo instruments, small ensembles, and piano.

1. Allegro ben ritmato e deciso

The first prelude, in B-flat major, begins with a five-note blues motif; virtually all the melodic material in the piece is based on this theme. Syncopated rhythms based on the Brazilian baião and chords containing flattened sevenths occur throughout; these give the piece a strong jazz feel. Although these sounds are far from adventurous by modern standards, to the audiences of the late 1920s they were almost unheard of. Structurally, the piece is in ternary form; however, the impression on the listener is that of a fantasia. This effect is achieved by using snippets of various virtuoso techniques, such as repeated notes, octaves, scales, and crossed hands, each of which is used for only a moment before the piece catches a flicker of some new idea.

2. Andante con moto (not as published in 1927)

The second Prelude, in C-sharp minor, also has the distinct flavour of jazz. The piece begins with a subdued melody winding its way above a smooth, steady bassline. The harmonies and melodies of this piece are built on thirds, emphasizing both the interval of the seventh and the major/minor duality of the blues scale. In the second section, the key, tempo, and thematic material all change; only the similarity of style binds the two sections together. The opening melody and bass return in the final section, more succinct but otherwise unchanged, and the piece ends with a slow ascent of the keyboard. Gershwin himself referred to the piece as "a sort of blues lullaby."

3. Agitato (as marked in the manuscript, not as published)

Gershwin himself called this prelude in E-flat minor "Spanish", but modern ears may find the description puzzling. After a brief and dramatic introduction, the main theme is revealed: two melodies that together form a question-and-answer pair. This theme is used throughout to provide harmonic structure. The "question" is harmonized using E-flat minor chords, the "answer" by E-flat major chords. After a brief, highly syncopated middle section, the melodic pair returns assertively in octaves, causing a battle between major and minor. Major wins, and the piece concludes with a flourish.

Related Research Articles

Rhythm guitar Guitar used to provide rhythm

In music performances, rhythm guitar is a technique and role that performs a combination of two functions: to provide all or part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section ; and to provide all or part of the harmony, i.e. the chords from a song's chord progression, where a chord is a group of notes played together. Therefore, the basic technique of rhythm guitar is to hold down a series of chords with the fretting hand while strumming or fingerpicking rhythmically with the other hand. More developed rhythm techniques include arpeggios, damping, riffs, chord solos, and complex strums.

In music, an ostinato[ostiˈnaːto] is a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, frequently in the same pitch. Well-known ostinato-based pieces include both classical compositions, such as Ravel's Boléro and the Carol of the Bells, and popular songs such as Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder's "I Feel Love" (1977), Henry Mancini's theme from Peter Gunn (1959), and The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (1997).

Piano Sonata No. 12 (Mozart)

The Piano Sonata No. 12 in F major, K. 332 (300k) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was published in 1784 along with the Piano Sonata No. 10 in C major, K. 330, and Piano Sonata No. 11, K. 331. Mozart wrote these sonatas either while visiting Munich in 1781, or during his first two years in Vienna. Some believe, however that Mozart wrote this and the other sonatas during a summer 1783 visit to Salzburg made for the purpose of introducing his wife, Constanze to his father, Leopold. All three sonatas were published in Vienna in 1784 as Mozart's Op. 6.

Major seventh musical interval

In music from Western culture, a seventh is a musical interval encompassing seven staff positions, and the major seventh is one of two commonly occurring sevenths. It is qualified as major because it is the larger of the two. The major seventh spans eleven semitones, its smaller counterpart being the minor seventh, spanning ten semitones. For example, the interval from C to B is a major seventh, as the note B lies eleven semitones above C, and there are seven staff positions from C to B. Diminished and augmented sevenths span the same number of staff positions, but consist of a different number of semitones.

The intervals from the tonic (keynote) in an upward direction to the second, to the third, to the sixth, and to the seventh scale degrees (of a major scale are called major.

Concerto in F is a composition by George Gershwin for solo piano and orchestra which is closer in form to a traditional concerto than his earlier jazz-influenced Rhapsody in Blue. It was written in 1925 on a commission from the conductor and director Walter Damrosch. It is just over half an hour long.

Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 3 in C major, Op. 2, No. 3, is a sonata written for solo piano, composed in 1795. It is dedicated to Joseph Haydn and is often referred to as Beethoven's first virtuosic piano sonata. The three Op. 2 sonatas all contain four movements each, an unusual length which seems to show that Beethoven was aspiring towards composing a symphony. It is both the weightiest and longest of the three Op. 2 sonatas, lasting over 25 minutes, presenting many difficulties, including difficult trills, awkward hand movements, and forearm rotation. It is Beethoven's second longest piano sonata in his early period, only to Beethoven's Grand Sonata in E Major, Op. 7, published a year later.

<i>Six moments musicaux</i> (Rachmaninoff)

Six moments musicaux, Op. 16, is a set of solo piano pieces composed by the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff between October and December 1896. Each Moment musical reproduces a musical form characteristic of a previous musical era. The forms that appear in Rachmaninoff's incarnation are the nocturne, song without words, barcarolle, virtuoso étude, and theme and variations.

In music and music theory, a hexatonic scale is a scale with six pitches or notes per octave. Famous examples include the whole tone scale, C D E F G A C; the augmented scale, C D E G A B C; the Prometheus scale, C D E F A B C; and the blues scale, C E F G G B C. A hexatonic scale can also be formed by stacking perfect fifths. This results in a diatonic scale with one note removed.

Impromptus (Schubert)

Franz Schubert's Impromptus are a series of eight pieces for solo piano composed in 1827. They were published in two sets of four impromptus each: the first two pieces in the first set were published in the composer's lifetime as Op. 90; the second set was published posthumously as Op. 142 in 1839. The third and fourth pieces in the first set were published in 1857. The two sets are now catalogued as D. 899 and D. 935 respectively. They are considered to be among the most important examples of this popular early 19th-century genre.

Jazz piano

Jazz piano is a collective term for the techniques pianists use when playing jazz. The piano has been an integral part of the jazz idiom since its inception, in both solo and ensemble settings. Its role is multifaceted due largely to the instrument's combined melodic and harmonic capabilities. For this reason it is an important tool of jazz musicians and composers for teaching and learning jazz theory and set arrangement, regardless of their main instrument.

<i>Faschingsschwank aus Wien</i>

Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26, is a solo piano work by Robert Schumann. He began composition of the work in 1839 in Vienna. He wrote the first four movements in Vienna, and the last on his return to Leipzig.

American Rhapsody

American Rhapsody was written for the accordion by John Serry Sr. in 1955 and subsequently transcribed for the free bass accordion in 1963 and for the piano in 2002. The composer was inspired by the classical orchestral works of George Gershwin along with various Latin Jazz percussive rhythms utilized throughout South America while composing this opus.

Jazz improvisation

Jazz improvisation is the spontaneous invention of melodic solo lines or accompaniment parts in a performance of jazz music. It is one of the defining elements of jazz. Improvisation is composing on the spot, when a singer or instrumentalist invents melodies and lines over a chord progression played by rhythm section instruments and accompanied by drums. Although blues, rock, and other genres use improvisation, it is done over relatively simple chord progressions which often remain in one key.

Johannes Brahms's Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 is the last of his violin sonatas, composed between 1886 and 1888. Unlike the two previous violin sonatas, it is in four movements. The sonata is dedicated to Brahms' friend and colleague Hans von Bülow, and was premiered in Budapest in 1888 with Jenő Hubay on violin and the composer at the piano.

Piano Quartet No. 3 (Brahms)

The Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor, Op. 60, completed by Johannes Brahms in 1875, is scored for piano, violin, viola and cello. It is sometimes called the Werther Quartet after Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Excursions, Op. 20, is the first published solo piano piece by Samuel Barber. Barber himself explains:

These are ‘Excursions’ in small classical forms into regional American idioms. Their rhythmic characteristics, as well as their source in folk material and their scoring, reminiscent of local instruments are easily recognized.

Le festin d'Ésope, Op. 39 No. 12, is a piano étude by Charles-Valentin Alkan. It is the final étude in the set Douze études dans tous les tons mineurs, Op. 39, published in 1857. It is a work of twenty-five variations based on an original theme and is in E minor. The technical skills required in the variations are a summation of the preceding études.

Glossary of jazz and popular music List of definitions of terms and jargon used in jazz and popular music

This is a list of jazz and popular music terms that are likely to be encountered in printed popular music songbooks, fake books and vocal scores, big band scores, jazz, and rock concert reviews, and album liner notes. This glossary includes terms for musical instruments, playing or singing techniques, amplifiers, effects units, sound reinforcement equipment, and recording gear and techniques which are widely used in jazz and popular music. Most of the terms are in English, but in some cases, terms from other languages are encountered.

Blues, Rags and Stomps, Op. 1, was composed by Robert Boury between 1970-1973. It consists two books, three movements each. Boury composed mostly during his graduate study at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The first set was nicknamed “Varsity Rags”, which Eubie Blake admired and told the audience, “Now that’s ragtime”, after he heard Boury’s performance at the 1971 Toronto ragtime Festival. Book I and II consist of three movements each: I. A Tristan Two-Step, II. Alice Walking, and III. The Rocket’s Red Glare. Book II: I. Eubie’s Blues, II. Stroller in Air, III. I Left My Heart. Boury comments that “A Tristan Two-step” represents his breakaway from modern music and was a way to be accepted as a tonal composer.

Piano music of Gabriel Fauré Piano music written by Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924)

The French composer Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924) wrote in many genres, including songs, chamber music, orchestral pieces, and choral works. His compositions for piano, written between the 1860s and the 1920s, include some of his best known works.