Robert Ramskill - 24 Preludes for Piano

24 Preludes for Piano

Instrumentation

Solo Piano

Recording, click here

Other Information

22nd May 2022 saw the launch of my 24 Preludes at a concert in Drapers' Hall, Coventry. The 3 concert pianists (who each played 8 of the preludes) were Julian Hellaby, Cecilia Xi and Darren Leaper. 

The recording is of Darren Leaper playing Prelude 4 in D flat Major (........Nocturne No2)

The preludes come in two volumes (12 preludes in each volume) which are available to purchase at £10.00 per volume.

PDF(dowloadable) copies are available at £8.00 per volume.   

To purchase please contact me at ramskillrobert@gmail.com.    

 

Her are my programme notes for the individual pieces:

VOLUME 1

1. Prelude in C major  (…. Overture). C major may be the underlying key but there is so much chromaticism and dissonance here that a plain C major chord is a rare occurrence in this technically demanding curtain-raiser.                  

2. Prelude in C minor  (…. La Muerte y La Brújula). Over the years I’ve used the characteristics of the Tango dance form many times (though never used the word in a title). Here we have a Tango whose title (translated as Death and the Compass) is taken from a short story by the great 20th century Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges. It’s a kind of detective story set in a city that Borges experts have identified as a surreal version of Buenos Aires. The detective investigates murders which happen at different points of the compass in the city and, following lots of clues filled with symbolism, he correctly predicts that he himself will be the fourth and final victim in the series of murders. So, to mirror these disturbing events, my Tango starts fairly conventionally but turns nasty in the middle and finishes with a pale, ghostly version of the opening tune.

3. Prelude in G minor  (…. The game’s afoot).  A lively, jazz-influenced prelude which I think was inspired by the quirky character of the theme music for BBC’s Sherlock Holmes series (the one which starred Benedict Cumberbatch).

4. Prelude in D flat major  (…. Nocturne No.2). The influence of that greatest of composers for the piano, Frédéric Chopin, is rarely far away in my piano music. This is Nocturne No. 2 because I wrote another piano Nocturne (now Nocturne No. 1!) in 1985.

5. Prelude in F sharp minor (…. This prelude’s a fugue!) What more can I add?

6. Prelude in B flat minor   (…. Yours disgusted of Tunbridge Wells) A short and rather violent prelude. The main gesture (it can hardly be called a theme!) came to me one dark, cold and blustery November evening as I was walking home along the Kenilworth Road from Coventry railway station.

7. Prelude in A minor   (…. Back to the future [October 2015].) This title is unusual for me in that I thought of it before actually writing any music. Most often the title is the last thing to come to mind. The idea here was to write a piece which started conventionally (with a slow, melancholy  waltz) but gradually turned into the kind of music we all thought was ‘the future’ about 40 or more years ago. So the music builds towards a violent, discordant episode in the middle which is like a nostalgic recollection of the avant-garde of yesteryear. Of course, Back to the future is also the title of a popular 1980’s film about time travel and I was most surprised to find, as I was writing this piece, that there was quite a bit in the press about the arrival of the specific future date visited in the film – October 2015. By pure coincidence that’s exactly when I finished this prelude!

8. Prelude in F major  (….How shall I sing that majesty ). One thing I wanted to do with this set of preludes was to reflect as many as possible of the different musical interests and influences that have occupied me over 50 years or more of writing music. One of these interests, since about 1990, has been the writing of hundreds of hymn arrangements for the BBC Songs of Praise TV programme. So, for How shall I sing that majesty, I chose some hymn tune words (from about 1680 by John Mason) and set them to a simple melody which we hear after an introductory section. After the hymn tune is played we have an interlude followed by a second ‘verse’ where the tune is treated in the style of jazz pianist George Shearing!

9. Prelude in E minor (…. Berceuse) The title (meaning ‘cradle-song’) seemed appropriate because of the use of a gentle, rocking, repetitive accompaniment figure.

10. Prelude in G major (…. Humoresque).  A jaunty, jazz-influenced piece in simple ternary form.

11. Prelude in D minor  (…. Temps perdu). A reflective, melancholy piece showing the influence of some of my favourite French composers.

12. Prelude in G sharp minor – (…. Nuestras vidas son los ríos). The title (translating as ‘our lives are the rivers’) is taken from what may be the most famous poem in Spanish – Jorge Manrique’s Coplas por la muerte de su padre (meaning ‘lines on the death of his father').

              

VOLUME 2

1. Prelude in E flat minor   (…. Won’t you join the dance?) The title of my version of a Viennese waltz is a line from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Lobster Quadrille’ in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

2. Prelude in E flat major  (…. Once upon a time in the East [of Leeds]). Harking back to my childhood in Leeds I naturally turned to the influence of Maurice Ravel’s so-called ‘pièces enfantiles’ (notably his Mother Goose Suite).

3. Prelude in F sharp major (…. Two part invention).  A brief tribute to another great influence on my compositional methods – the music of J.S. Bach.

4. Prelude in D major  (…. The eternal optimist).  A carefree ‘[pop]-song without words’.

5. Prelude in F minor   (…. Elegy.) A sombre piece which starts with a melody which, I’ve been told, is reminiscent of an English folk song (though I’m not sure which one!).

6. Prelude in B major  (…. Quicksilver.) A light and airy piece which is another prelude showing French influences.

7. Prelude in A flat major (…. Sixth sense). With its slow, simple accompaniment of left hand repeated chords (starting on an added 6th) this is technically the most straightforward of the preludes.

8. Prelude in C sharp minor   (…. Lembrança do Rio). The title is (I think) Portuguese for 'Souvenir of Rio’. I’ve never been to Brazil but I enjoy using Latin American dance rhythms in my compositions – this is my attempt at a Samba.

9. Prelude in E major  (…. Mazurka No.1) Another Chopin homage here – I may well have written a Mazurka or two in my teenage years but, as they’re long lost, this is now ‘No.1’!

10. Prelude in B flat major  – (…. Chanson triste.) A short, wistful prelude which provides a moment of calm in contrast to the ‘busy-ness’ of many of the others in the set.

11. Prelude in B minor  (…. Efaristo Poli.) Greece, a favourite holiday destination of the Ramskill family, is the inspiration here. Three folksongs are used. The title means 'thank you very much!'

12. Prelude in A major  (…. January 1st, 2021). The title of this prelude is its date of completion. The intention was to write something brimming with optimism as an antidote (for my own benefit) to the gloominess surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. Along with everyone else I was hoping that the New Year might herald better times. By now you’ll know whether this optimism was justified or not!