Prelude No.4

Sergey Rachmaninov

Prelude No.4 in D major

Op. 23/4

About this work

Of the ten preludes in the Op. 23 set, this is one of the most serene and lovely. Like the G flat major (No. 11 overall, but the tenth in Op. 23), it reflects the composer's happy personal circumstances at the time: Rachmaninov had married his cousin Natalia Satina in May 1902 and they were expecting their first child the following May. He had also scored a great success the previous year with the premiere of his Piano Concerto No. 2, lifting him from a major depression and loss of confidence in his abilities that had plagued him since 1897. This prelude opens with a soothing, running accompaniment over which a lovely theme is played whose ascending trajectory immediately imparts a celestial warmth. Soon, the music builds up, but as it swells, it reveals little tension, promising only radiance and ecstasy. The listener experiences a sense of both here, but Rachmaninov works the music up to a second, even more climactic episode, after which the music revels for a time in ecstatic outpourings, then slowly fades in utter contentment. This prelude typically has a duration of nearly five minutes.