Classical Music Library Free Download of the Week

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Every two weeks, Alexander Street offers a free music download from our popular online music collection. This download is freely available, regardless of whether or not your library subscribes to the collection.

Prelude in C-sharp Minor, op. 3 by Sergey Rachmaninov

Russian composer Sergey Rachmaninov (1873-1943) had just graduated from the Moscow Conservatory when he composed his Morceaux de fantaisie, op. 3. The work includes five pieces, but by far his most famous is the second, the Prelude in C-sharp Miinor. The prelude was almost too popular once it premiered; audiences requested it so often that Rachmaninoff grew tired of playing it again and again at every performance. It became known as simply “The Prélude.”
 
Like several composers before him (notably J.S. Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin), Rachmaninoff composed twenty-four preludes that cycle through all twenty-four major and minor keys. The Prelude in C-sharp Minor is the only one in op. 3; the additional preludes were written in 1903 (Ten Preludes, op. 23) and 1910 (Thirteen Preludes, op. 32). 
 
Rachmaninoff owned only the Russian copyright for the Morceaux de fantaisie, which meant his royalties did not match its reputation. Even after publishing the Ten Preludes, op. 23 over ten years later, The Prélude remained one of his most popular works. He considered the possibility that the copyrights of his works actually influenced their popularity. He remarked to the women’s magazine The Delineator:
 
“Under the circumstances I should be thankful, I suppose, that I wrote the composition. But I am undecided whether my oversight in neglecting to secure international copyright for it was altogether fortunate for me. Had I copyrighted it, I might have had wealth as well as fame from it. And again, I might have achieved neither….I took the precaution to have [the ten Préludes of Op. 23] copyrighted by a German publisher. I think them far better music than my first Prélude, but the public has shown no disposition to share my belief. I can not tell whether my judgment is at fault or whether the existence of that copyright has acted as a blight on their popularity. Consequently it will always be an open question with me whether intrinsic merit or absence of copyright is responsible for the success of my earlier work.” (Quoted in Sergei Rachmaninoff: A Lifetime in Music by Sergi Bertensson and Jay Leyda, New York University Press, 1956.)
 
This recording is performed by France Clidat.

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