1. The notion of miniature
  2. Preludes for lute
  3. Genre of prelude in Western European School
  4. Johann Sebastian Bach
  5. Frederic Chopin
  6. Claude Debussy

III. Evolution of the genre in Russian School

  1. Sergey Rachmaninov
  2. Alexander Skryabin
  3. Dmitry Shostakovich
  4. Prelude in piano music of Kazakhstan’s composers
  5. Gaziza Zhubanova
  6. Tles Kazhgaliyev
  7. Serikzhan Abdinurov
  8. Conclusion


I can’t live without music even a day!

It is in me – it is around me

In song of birds and noise of cities

In silence of grass and rainbow colors,

And in blaze of day spring above the ground…

Irina Volobuyeva

Wonderful elixir of magic music

Entered my heart with its sound

The air woven by wonderful music

Gave my soul the childhood feelings…

Andrey Shalamov


Piano play: Johann Bach “WTC”, Book I, Prelude C-dur.

The notion of miniature, “miniaturity” emerged in the musical art of the Renaissance. The first preludes were musical pieces for lute representing short introductions preceding larger music pieces. Translated from Latin “prelude” means preamble, introduction (literally – “preliminary play”). Introduction not restricted by strict cannons and rules allowed a performing musician to demonstrate his or her virtuosity in full. In the 17th century keyboard preludes fulfilling the role of an introductory play (to choral, fuga or suite) began to emerge in France. 

Prelude as an introductory play holds a place of prominence in the oeuvre of the greatest composer of the 17th century Johann Bach: highly poetic “choral preludes”, piano and organ preludes preceding fugues. They all relate to the ancient tradition of preluding, and preserve features of improvisationality and a specific figured style. Preludes and fugues constituting the first and the second volume of “The Well-Tempered Clavier” are still unequalled pieces of polyphonic piano music.

* * * * *

Frederic Chopin when bringing prelude to a new life, fundamentally changed its role and purpose. For him, a romantic artist, improvisationality and miniaturism were the most significant features of a prelude and attracted him the most. In Chopin’s preludes, the art of miniature gained the perfect expression. Familiar and ever-new Chopin’s images pass in contrast alternation: sorrowful and lyrical, delicate and graceful, imbued with a civil pathos and tragicalness, romantic and passionate.

Thus, with Chopin, previous traditional introduction becomes an independent genre with its own regular patterns and specificity.

* * * * *

A cycle of twenty four preludes created by Claude Debussy at the end of his creative carrier, in fact, completed the development of the genre in the Western Europe musical art.

Capability of a prelude to personate separate, alternating impressions, absence of mandatory schemes in compositions, improvisational freedom expression – all these was close to aesthetic views and artistic method of the composer impressionist.

          Twenty four preludes of Debussy are a cycle of miniature musical pieces each containing absolutely independent artistic images. Unlike Chopin’s preludes, you fell less repeating pattern here, however, they are notable for variety of figurative and poetic theme and bright color of accent.

           Selection of scenery motive sometimes manifests patterns of symbolism included in hidden meaning of some names and in aspiration to add to prelude more significant content, than just a scene: “Footsteps in the Snow”, “Dead leaves”.


* * * * *

The creative works of composers in the 20th century showed new ways for development of the genre.

Traditional preludes were represented in relation to two ways:

— introduction to fugue

— miniature

            The third direction emerged in creative works of Sergey Rachmaninov:

— independent large play.

The cycles of preludes of the composer demonstrate combination of three principles: lyrics, epics, and drama. They cover a wide range of images and are notable for virtuosity, brilliance and extended forms. This influences the manner of composing: strengthened monumentality and wealth of colors contributes features of orchestrality.

           Piano play: Sergey Rachmaninov – Prelude gis-moll op.32 №12.


* * * * *

By his early cycle “Twenty four preludes” op. 11, Alexander Skryabin recognized the tradition by arranging compositions in parallel relations around a circle of fifths. Further compositions in this genre were combined in independent circles

The creative works of Skryabin were vastly influenced by a specific perception of acoustic color by the composer. The nature of these phenomena lies in the fact that Skryabin had a rare gift of special color and acoustic perceptions.


* * * * *

             Dmitry Shostakovich in his cycle of preludes and fugues abided the traditional continuality in tonal scheme of a cycle, and strictly led it around a circle of fifths. The cycle of preludes is also united by their permanent chamber nature, hence pianism specificity (avoidance of Rachmaninov’s lordliness, impressionist delicacy or plein air).

       However, the most important and greater unifying principle in the cycle of preludes is their genre characteristic: dreamy improvisation in Prelude 1 and Romanceness in Prelude 3, strict thought in Prelude 4 and grotesque Polka in Prelude 6, sentimental waltz in Prelude 17 and ironic gavotte in Prelude 24… Shostakovich brings into the generalized genre of preludes a bright origin of a specific performability.


* * * * *

Emerging of preludes in piano music of Kazakhstan’s composers relates to those musical and universal culture conditions, in which the genre could be cultivated on the ground of the national music: activation of interaction with Russian music culture and opening of a conservatory in Kazakhstan.

The first Kazakhstan composer to address the genre of piano prelude was Gaziza Zhubanova. In 1951 she created four preludes which reflected an individual style of the author: contrast of images, meaningfulness and lyricism. A significant phenomenon in Kazakh piano music had been a cycle of preludes “EVA” dedicated to Professor Eva Kogan, which was created by Gaziza Zhubanova in 1988.

Piano play: Gaziza Zhubanova – Prelude b-moll.


* * * * *

Transformation of genres of European tradition has taken place in creative works of Kazakhstani composers, which have gained a new acoustic image, since their compositions are based on a musical vocabulary of their native people. In the 20th century, alongside with the use of folklore material, neoclassical trends, primarily, related to polyphonization of composition and addressing to strict classical forms, gain special interest in instrumental creative works of Kazakhstani composers. They include: N. Mendygaliyev, D. Matsutsin, Zh. Dastenov, T. Kazhgaliyev, Zh. Tezekbayev and others.

Despite the fact that grand piano is originally a heritage of European culture, Tles Kazhgaliyev successfully preserving the great traditions of piano performance could create his own, deeply individual style characterized by a synthesis of elements of European and Russian pianistic culture and Kazakh folk music art.

Clarity, energy, and vivacity in perception and transmission of the content, and perceivable imagery – all these features have been necessary features of piano compositions by T. Kazhgaliyev.

Despite modernity of the musical accent of the composers, the composition of his early period demonstrates traces of influence of musical romanticism, which especially relates to his imagery world. Prelude 8 entitled precisely “Romantic Prelude”.

Piano play: T. Kazhgaliyev – Prelude 8 “Romantic”.  


* * * * *

Trends of neoclassicism have been immediately expressed in music of Kazakhstani authors of the 21st century. They entered the music culture simultaneously with neo-romanticism and poly-stylistics, and clearly manifested in compositions of national composers alongside with national and folklore features and particularities of the oriental world outlook. They are continued in creative works of S. Abdinurov, G. Uzenbayeva, A. Raimkulova, Ye. Balakshiy and others.

Addressing sharp, bride and dissonant intonations and often colloquial origin are combined in miniatures with national originality of a melody. Specifically the original mix of Kazakh national intonations, vibration of tones of folk instruments in the synthesis with the technique of the modern composing and European forms creates a new entirety of the genre of prelude.

Piano play: S. Abdinurov – Prelude a – moll.




How faceted is music! How young it is

It sounds through time and horizons

And touches heart-strings of people

Strings of love, sadness, memory and dream…

Irina Volobuyeva



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