Chopin’s 24th prelude is one of my favourite piano compositions, brief, but packed with powerful and gripping emotion. Like most of his other works Chopin did not name his preludes and prelude 24 was christened “The storm” by Hans Bulow. There are several interpretations and imageries that this composition invokes, but I feel that Bulow’s characterization of the Storm is most fitting.
The composition begins with a 5 note pattern played by the left hand which establishes a dark foreboding mood that is characteristic of this piece. These notes also serve as harmony and bind the melodies played by the right hand while projecting a constant feeling of impending misfortune. In my mind this conjures up the image of a seasoned sailor engaged in his duties aboard a ship with a nagging perception of a looming tempest at the back of his mind. In the video presented here, the dominant melody begins at 0:06 and lasts till 0:34. It resurfaces again at 0:38. The storm clouds are gathering and man can do nought but labour on, as he is wont to do during such calamities. But this piece isn’t about man’s fortitude, but about the storm itself, magnificent in its unbridled fury; a fury for its own sake.
1:22 is the lull before the storm, and the piece climaxes in the melody that follows, powerful and explosive; like the vengeance of God Himself. The storm runs its ravaging course and then subsides with 3 lugubrious D notes which conclude the piece. Chopin had a reputation of frailty and daintiness that pursued him his entire life. It is therefore quite satisfying to experience a composition that packs in raw emotion like this one. The performance presented here is by the gifted Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz, however I’d love to listen to Evegeny Kissin’s interpretation if I could find it on youtube.