The Chopin Prelude in e minor is one of the most eloquent short pieces of music ever penned. It speaks volumes in a span of time under two minutes long, speaks of sadness, longing and hope, and because it is so easy to play the notes it is one of the most abused pieces in the student repertoire. But for that reason, and because it is so gorgeously one of my most loved of Chopin's piano music, I thought it would be interesting to see what some of the greats, and a few of the not so greats, would do with it.
Predictably, the great pianists I found play it beautifully, with subtle differences in tempo and emphassis, to be sure. Surprisingly, I found the most poignant interpretations of the Chopin Prelude in e minor to be those in which the pianists played the music, well for lack of a more elegant word, faster, and the almost dirge like aspect of the left hand was substituted for by an gently urgent motion toward the object of desire.
As can be expected, the performance by Cortot is fabulous, as is the quite different one by Pogorelich. But my greatest discovery was the one by Shura Cherkassky, a wonderful pianist whose renown does not do justice to his genius.
Performances by the pianists who are normally less quirky in my esteem are less satisfying, perhaps for being more predictable. A few just plain try to do too much with this music which is, in a sense, simplicity itself. But a number of them are wvery fine.
Listen for yourselves to these interpretations of the Chopin Prelude in e minor and let me know, if you care to, which ones speak to you.
ALFRED CORTOT (1877–1962) Franco-Swiss pianist recorded in 1933
ARTUR RUBINSTEIN (1887-1982) Polish-American pianist