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#2109359 - 06/27/13 11:20 PM Rachmaninoff, Prelude, Op. 32, No. 9 in A
RachFan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/03
Posts: 1347
Loc: Maine, U.S.
Rachmaninoff composed his Prelude, Op. 32, No. 9 in A on August 26, 1910. It is in ternary form. To say that this is a thick-textured piece would be an understatement. The melody often exists in a snippet motif, so much be recognized and emphasized. But there are actually three levels of writing: the right hand melody, the left hand octaves (which sometimes are melodic and enter the foreground), and filler notes to make the structure more robust, which must be deemphasized except for occasional melodic purposes. Rachmaninoff, probably believing that pianists can never get enough double notes, very generously provided them throughout this piece raising constant voicing challenges. Dynamics not noted by the composer most often follow the lines of the musical contours. I believe that the program for this piece is a large ship laboring through heavy waves. The middle section suggests a romance between the ship and the sea. Nearing the end of the voyage, the ship safely makes port with the town church bells pealing. This piece can be studied for a lifetime. I’ve already studied it twice. I hope you’ll enjoy hearing it.

LINK: http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=51600.0

Piano: Baldwin Model L Artist Grand (6’3”) with lid fully open.
Recorder: Korg MR-1000
Mics: Matched pair of Earthworks TC-20 small diaphragm, omni-directional condenser mics in A-B configuration


#2111160 - 07/01/13 12:16 PM Re: Rachmaninoff, Prelude, Op. 32, No. 9 in A [Re: RachFan]
kapelli Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/26/12
Posts: 407
Loc: Poland
Why you play it so slow?

Sorry but it loses all of it's beauty...
However I appreciate you musicality, which iis very high.
What I can add, I would do some better dynamics differences in the left hand octaves, there is beautiful melody in it!

Besides you play it like striking the hammers into the keyboard... very forcefully.
I like when people play pieces which are little over their technical ability... but this seems far above...

Sorry I am completely devoted to Rach and love play him...

#2111291 - 07/02/13 12:44 AM Re: Rachmaninoff, Prelude, Op. 32, No. 9 in A [Re: RachFan]
RachFan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/03
Posts: 1347
Loc: Maine, U.S.
Hi kapelli,

Thanks for listening and commenting. Would you perhaps be willing to share your own recording of this prelude here? Thanks.


#2112509 - 07/03/13 11:50 PM Re: Rachmaninoff, Prelude, Op. 32, No. 9 in A [Re: RachFan]
Dwscamel Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/22/13
Posts: 510
Hi David,

First of all, I absolutely love your interpretation of this piece. Rachmaninoff is my hero: I have all of his music and I listen to it every day. The recordings by Ashkenazy, Horowitz, Gilels, Kissin, Perahia, and others really bring the music to my soul.

And, yet, I've never heard this piece played slowly enough for me to really enjoy it like the others. While other people have commented that you play the opening too slowly, I think it's refreshing and brings out the narrative you create.

Second, people need to check out the score to this piece. It's seriously a mess. One of the reasons this prelude is so overlooked, I imagine, is that it's so dense and intimidating on the page. Criticism is fine. But derisiveness, especially with a piece like this, is uncalled for.

Which other Rach pieces have you recorded? I'm too much of a beginner to really play any of his music except for the prelude op.32 no.10 in B minor, which I've learned. I'm also working on the prelude op.23 no.4 in D, which is also one of the easier ones.

I'd love to hear your take on the etude op.39 no.5 in E-flat minor, etude op.39 no.8 in D minor, prelude op.32 no.5 in G, any of the VERY ignored three nocturnes, or some arrangement of Vocalise or the 18th variation of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

Stellar playing, excited for the next recording already.

#2112538 - 07/04/13 12:57 AM Re: Rachmaninoff, Prelude, Op. 32, No. 9 in A [Re: Dwscamel]
Cinnamonbear Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/09/10
Posts: 3983
Loc: Rockford, IL
Originally Posted By: Dwscamel
[...] Second, people need to check out the score to this piece. It's seriously a mess. One of the reasons this prelude is so overlooked, I imagine, is that it's so dense and intimidating on the page. [...]

Seriously! There is a lot to appreciate about this performance. The layering. The colors. The undulations. Not to mention, RachFan's attention to all of the other details! It seems to me that David never plays/records/posts anything without a complete understanding and respect for what he's doing. This performance is definitely worth a listen and a comment! grin

Here, Dwscamel, you'll like this compilation by our dear friend Apple*[~Oun] (recently departed), originally posted 2/2/11:

Originally Posted By: apple*
It's my pleasure to present this collection of Rachfan's recordings. I have had a delightful day (a snowday) assembling these. I have enjoyed them immensely the last couple years. My words are inadequate to convey the beauty of the works of Sergei Bortkiewics and Georgy Catoire, works which I've never heard and the recently posted recordings by Eduardo Dutra, Poulenc, Debussey and Scriabin.

I will let Rachfan tell you about his recording equipment and piano and the music he chose to record. I've saved almost every recording on my ipod... and will save the rest tomorrow. I have loved the depth and soulfulness of this genre and being exposed to these works.

Rachfan I can edit this intro in any way you wish.. perhaps to include your name or bio from you tube. (I found a mistake yesterday and there may be more, so let me know if any of the links are incorrect)

Bortkiewicz, Impromptu Op. 24, No. 3, "Eros"

Bortkiewicz, Prelude Op. 33, No 3 in D

Bortkiewicz, Prelude, Op. 33, No. 5 in A

Bortkiewicz, Prelude Op. 33, No. 6 in C#m

Bortkiewicz, Prelude, Op. 33 No. 7 in F#

Bortkiewicz Prelude Op. 33, No. 8 in D flat

Bortkiewicz, Prelude, Op. 33, No. 9 in B flat

Bortkiewicz, Prelude, Op. 33, No. 10 in B flat minor

Bortkiewicz, Prelude, Op. 40, No. 2 in Bm

Bortkiewicz, Prelude, Op. 40 No. 4 in F#

Bortkiewicz, Prelude, Op. 40, No. 6 in F#m

Bortkiewicz, Prelude, Op. 40, No. 7 in E

G. Catoire, Quatre Morceaux, Op. 12, No. 1, "Chant du soir"

G. Catoire, Quatre Morceaux, Op. 12, No. 2, "Meditation"

G. Catoire, Quatre Morceaux, Op. 12, No. 3, "Nocturne"

G. Catoire, Quatre Morceaux, Op. 12, No. 4, "Etude-fantastique"

G. Catoire, Quatre Morceaux, Op. 12 complete set

G. Catoire, Prelude, Op. 17, No. 1 in G#m

G. Catoire, Prelude, Op. 17, No. 2 in G

G. Catoire, Prelude, Op. 17, No. 3 in Cm

G. Catoire, Prelude, Op. 17, No. 4 in B flat

G. Catoire Preludes, Op. 17, complete set

G. Catoire, Chants du Crepuscule, Op. 24, No. 1

G. Catoire, "Chants du crepuscule", Op. 24, No. 2 in Fm

G. Catoire, "Chants du crepuscule", Op. 24, No. 3

G. Catoire, Chants du crepuscule, Op. 24, No. 4

G. Catoire, Chants du Crepuscule, Op. 24 (complete)

Debussy, "La Soiree dans Grenade" from Estampes

Eduardo Dutra, Preludio, Op. 32 in F#m

Medtner, Sonata-Elegia, Op.11, No. 2 in Dm

Poulenc 'Melancolie'

Scriabin, Poeme, Op. 32, No. 2 in D

"Poeme" (improvisation)

You can use the website's search function to find more recent posts by RachFan.

I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.

#2112548 - 07/04/13 01:35 AM Re: Rachmaninoff, Prelude, Op. 32, No. 9 in A [Re: Cinnamonbear]
Dwscamel Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/22/13
Posts: 510
Thank you so much, Cinnamon! I already went ahead and found some of Rachfan's recordings on PS, but I appreciate having so many laid out in one place. And I do remember Apple (RIP).

I'll never run out of Russian Romantic music to explore smile.

#2112723 - 07/04/13 10:27 AM Re: Rachmaninoff, Prelude, Op. 32, No. 9 in A [Re: RachFan]
Tim Adrianson Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/10
Posts: 1119
Hi, RachFan! As usual, thanks for providing presentations of neglected late-Romantic works. A couple of general comments:

1 For me, I sense an unchanging 9/8 Barcarolle rhythmic flow: 1st in the left hand, then the right, then back to left, restating in minor mode, then "really" left, before switching to 12/8 -- but still the same pulsing gesture -- before reaching a stasis point, followed by a short, concluding restatement of the 9/8 pulse. In your performance, I don't enough of the rhythmic unity, and the "long line" -- I feel like there are too many interruptions in the flow, in the interests of getting all "the details".

2 In a similar vein, I also relate to this piece as being an art song, and I would like to hear "the song" element in somewhat higher relief than I heard in your performance. For me, this Prelude is markedly similar to the much better known 23-4 in D Major -- overall a sad feel, even when it's in a major key. Since I believe "the song" starts in the left hand before moving to the right hand, I'd look to shape the left hand more, so that its songful quality is better emphasized.

Just a last observation -- in the second section of the 12/8 bars (the one following the one 9/8 bar), I believe you're misreading the clef -- it should be F#-A above middle C; not A-C# below middle C.

Thanks for sharing this!

#2112885 - 07/04/13 03:43 PM Re: Rachmaninoff, Prelude, Op. 32, No. 9 in A [Re: Dwscamel]
RachFan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/03
Posts: 1347
Loc: Maine, U.S.
Hi Dwscamel,

It's always nice to meet another Rachmaninoff fan. I've loved his music for decades and have never tired of it.

I did agonize over the tempo for this recording at hand. In my earlier analog recording from the 1980s, I played it faster, but had to hustle just to grab all the notes, contrary to artistic playing. This piece is a barcarolle, but one where I think of a large ship under sail laboring through the great ocean swells. With that program in mind, I felt that I should best play the piece in the lower range of both andante and moderato--regardless of the velocity heard in the Ashkenazy and Richter recordings, for example. I'm glad I did, because I believe I was able to create some very sensuous lines and nuances in the playing. So the tempo worked for me at least.

You're quite right about the score. The textures are very dense--it's like fighting your way through a thicket, which is why the music has to be layered for clarity. Otherwise the music could not be projected to the listener in a meaningful way--it would sound chaotic.

Regarding your question, I've recorded the following Rachmaninoff pieces:

Morceaux de Fantaisies, Melodie, Op. 3, No. 3, 1940 revision (digital)

Moments Musicaux, Op. 16 (analog)
No. 3 in Bm
No. 5 in D flat

Preludes, Op. 23
No. 1, F#m (digital)
No. 4, D flat (analog)
No. 5, Gm (analog)
No. 6, E flat (analog)
No. 10, G flat (digital)

Preludes, Op. 32
No. 1, C (analog)
No. 5, G (analog)
No. 7, F (analog)
No. 9, A (digital)
No. 10, Bm (analog)

Rachmaninoff's own song transcriptions for piano

Lilacs, Op. 32, No. 5 (analog)
Daisies, Op. 38, No. 3 (analog)

So I've recorded a good number of his pieces. I might do more in the future. You can hear my recording of the Prelude Op. 32, No. 5 in G which you like. Here is a link for you:


I have the Etude in E flat minor on my list, but have yet to get to it. But someday.

Over the years I think I've heard three different transcriptions of the Vocalise. This particular song doesn't come off well as a piano transcription in my opinion. A large number of the other songs though--especially as transcribed by Earl Wild and Arcadi Volodos--are extraordinary piano transcriptions, but very difficult!

Thanks again for your kind comments on my rendition. I appreciate it.


Edited by RachFan (07/04/13 03:46 PM)

#2112892 - 07/04/13 04:06 PM Re: Rachmaninoff, Prelude, Op. 32, No. 9 in A [Re: Cinnamonbear]
RachFan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/03
Posts: 1347
Loc: Maine, U.S.
Hi Andy,

Thanks so much for those very kind kudos! It inspires me to try to play at my best. I'm delighted that you enjoyed my rendition of this Rachmaninoff prelude.

It's wonderful too that you found that compilation of my more recent recordings written by apple*. I'm sure that Dwscamel will find it helpful, as there is some great late romantic piano music there.

I still think of apple* and miss her a lot. She was a light at Piano World and touched many here with her gentle spirit and kindnesses. May our memory of her always linger with us at Piano World.


#2112905 - 07/04/13 04:33 PM Re: Rachmaninoff, Prelude, Op. 32, No. 9 in A [Re: Tim Adrianson]
RachFan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/03
Posts: 1347
Loc: Maine, U.S.
Hi Tim,

Thanks for your review. I'm sorry to have disappointed you in this rendition. I do believe though that the general effect of this music is, if not in the eye of the beholder, then in the ear of the listener. In my earlier 1986 recording, I took a faster tempo that might have worked more toward a cohesive, unified line, but in listening now, I sense that there was too much of a rush to grab the notes in time which worked against expressiveness. With the slower tempo in the newer recording, but still within andante moderato, I was able to luxuriate more in the sensuous phrases and sentences which form the long line. I mean, who is Rachmaninoff if not an ultra-romantic composer? Also in the layering of the music, I thought I paid huge attention to voicing the melodic line without ever failing to do so. I've drawn a lot of praise for etching a cantilena line in many recordings. I think too that there are moments in this piece where the mood is altered, points of interest shift to the left hand octave accompaniment, of even occasionally within the polyphonic filigree which occasionally becomes voice leading and momentarily melodic in its own right. I am of the opinion that without attention to details, there can be no really holistic long line to communicate to the listener.

Yes, sorry that I did have that misread of the F#-A, although I think few would notice it, as it blended in well harmonically. The irony is that I had taken my pencil and circled it and practiced it properly. But... during performance the old habit arose again. Sorry about that!


Edited by RachFan (07/04/13 05:38 PM)


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