I always come back to Chopin, especially his preludes. They bring me solace in times of travail, in part because of their wistfulness and in part because they remind me of my youth when I was learning some of these pieces, or at least struggling to learn them. I should add that the technical virtuosity that a number of these pieces require also enthralls me. Chopin was the quintessential romantic melancholy, and his opus resonates with me beyond words. Yet I shall hazard some verbiage nonetheless, and Prelude 8 in F# Minor, also known as “Desperation,” comes readily to mind.
The right hand plays cascading thirty-second notes throughout the entirety of the short piece while the left hand undergirds it with sixteenth-note triplets lightly tapped until the last two measures that end enigmatically with chords. This is the music on the page, but in the nimble fingers of an Ivo Pogorelić, whose interpretation of Chopin’s preludes I’ve particularly enjoyed, the proper dynamics make all the difference in the world in turning the piece from a moving experience to the utmost of emotional intensity and spiritual yearning. An occasional listen inevitably evoke in me the deepest passions of the heart.