Chopin Preludes, Op. 28
In 2013, I was hired to perform all of Chopin’s Op. 28 Preludes with Compagnie Marie Chouinard, a modern dance ensemble from Montreal. This live performance, which occurred as part of the Williams Center’s Footlight Performance Series at Lafayette College, entirely changed my perception of these preludes. Nearly every pianist (professional or amateur) has performed at least a few of these preludes, but they take a distinctive meaning when heard within the context of the full set. Hearing them while seeing a modern choreographic interpretation of the music invited even more possibilities of discovery. I became fascinated with the expressive potential of these small pieces, and hoped to help the genre continue—and since our present-day ears already perceive the music in a completely different way from when the preludes were initially heard, it made sense to challenge the expectations of contemporary audiences. This led to my current performance and musicological endeavor, the Preludes Project.
At the end of 2013, I began commissioning 13 composers to write preludes for me. For two seasons, I performed newly composed works on the same program as preludes by Bach, Rachmaninoff, Debussy and Chopin. Every concert was slightly different yet the response by audiences was astounding. Not only did they accept the newly composed preludes alongside the standard repertoire as a logical historical progression; they also listened to their favorites with more wonder and more inquiry. While I noticed this as I was talking to audiences from the stage, it was also evident in the many questions I received from attendees after the concert. I am honored to share the first phase of this project with this recording.
The experiences I have had with this project have been life changing, but I am also delighted to bring two profound loves together. The first classical piece I ever performed was Chopin’s C Minor Prelude. I was 6 years old and a kind piano teacher arranged the piece so that my small hands could play the music I adored. Having the opportunity to record Chopin’s Op. 28 preludes along with Twenty-Six Preludes for Solo Piano, which were written for me by my husband, Kirk O’Riordan,
is extraordinary. I can think of no better pairing for my debut album.
O’Riordan Twenty-Six Preludes for Piano
Twenty-six Preludes was composed for Holly Roadfeldt between September 2013 and April 2014. The entire set was premiered at SUNY-Albany on November 18th, 2014.
Unlike the famous preludes by composers like Bach, Chopin, and Debussy, mine are not organized by key. Instead, they are organized by “threads:” compositional ideas that are developed over the course of the entire set. Composing the set in this manner allowed me to develop several ideas concurrently with the plan that they would in some way merge together by the end of the set, giving the several disparate ideas a real reason to exist together in the same set. In addition, because I was not using key as a resource, I was not constrained by the number 24.
The end result is a cycle of preludes that is in some ways more closely related to a Schubertian song cycle than to the Preludes of Chopin, Bach or Debussy. That is not to say that there is not a close conceptual connection with the Preludes of those masters (there are subtle references to each of those composers in the score), but my intention was to treat the Preludes in a cyclical fashion rather than, as is the case with Bach and Chopin, an exploration of the nuances of the 24 keys.
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