Twenty-four Preludes [Mailed Score] (2015)
|Instrumentation:||Piano Solo [Advanced]|
Premiere: John Burge, piano, January 9, 2015, Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Queen's University, Kingston, ON.
Duration: approximately 60 minutes
Publisher: Red Leaf Music [JBComps-003] purchased through this page. Containing 80 pages of music, this 9X12 inch edition is beautifully published with a lay-flat coil binding that is protected by a fold-over cover.
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Program Notes: The overall design of John Burge’s Twenty-Four Preludes for solo piano (one in each of the possible 24 major and minor keys) reveals his affinity to the music of Chopin. This connection is further underscored by a couple of rather specific allusions to two of Chopin compositions (heard in Burge’s Preludes Number 17 and 24). Equally though, the Preludes of Debussy, with their expressive textural sonorities and colour, can also be considered touchstones, especially in the way that Burge provides subtitles for fourteen of his Preludes (Debussy added a descriptive title to each of his Twenty-four Preludes).
Video Performance: Mathew Walton performed the complete set of Preludes as part of his DMA requirements on Sept. 11, 2016 at the University of Alberta:
Burge composed this set of preludes over five years (2011-2015) trying to personally premiere a few at a time, so that the music had a long period of gestation. A sabbatical leave from teaching during the 2014/15 academic year provided an opportunity to polish the preludes and premiere the set in its entirety (a complete performance takes about one hour). The most unusual aspect of these Preludes is that eight of them use extended instrumental techniques such as strumming strings inside the piano. These techniques are very simple to execute and do not require any advance preparation of the piano but in most cases can only be realized successfully on a grand piano with the music stand removed. As a guiding principle, Burge tried to embrace each Prelude’s tonic key in an audibly recognizable fashion so that at times the music is emphatically tonal, even in the Preludes that involve non-traditional performance practices.
Given the shortness of many of these preludes there is quite a bit of potential for the music to be useful for teaching purposes and as possible repertoire for performance competitions. Although assigning levels of difficulty can be very subjective, John Burge suggests the following grade levels. Please note that many of the consecutively numbered preludes sharing the same key signature have a natural connection and flow easily one into the other. As such, these pairs have often been joined together in the list below, requiring that both preludes be performed as a unit to satisfy the indicated level of difficulty. However, some of the preludes are so short (especially Numbers 2, 11 and 14) that they have simply been listed as optional preludes to perform with the Prelude sharing the same key signature, although it is always stronger to play two contrasting preludes to demonstrate a performer’s musicianship and technical facility.
International Piano Review:
The Scottish pianist, Murray McLachlan, wrote a wonderful review of the complete set of Preludes in the January/February 2018 issue of International Piano that begins: "Ontario-born composer John Burge (b 1961) has produced a significant contribution to contemporary piano repertoire with his Twenty-Four Preludes (2011-15). Taking their cue from Chopin in their key scheme, they succeed in creating atmosphere and conviction within accessible yet pastiche-free stylistic limits." The complete review can be found on this website's page of Reviews.