/prel"yoohd, prayl"-, pray"loohd, pree"-/, n., v., preluded, preluding.n.1. a preliminary to an action, event, condition, or work of broader scope and higher importance.2. any action, event, comment, etc. that precedes something else.3. Music.a. a relatively short, independent instrumental composition, free in form and resembling an improvisation.b. a piece that precedes a more important movement.c. the overture to an opera.d. an independent piece, of moderate length, sometimes used as an introduction to a fugue.e. music opening a church service; an introductory voluntary.v.t.4. to serve as a prelude or introduction to.5. to introduce by a prelude.6. to play as a prelude.v.i.7. to serve as a prelude.8. to give a prelude.9. to play a prelude.[1555-65; (n.) < ML praeludium, equiv. to prae- PRE- + -ludium play; cf. L ludus play; (v.) < L praeludere to play beforehand]Syn. 1. introduction, opening, beginning.
* * *Musical composition, usually brief, generally played as an introduction to another piece.The prelude originated as short pieces that were improvised by an organist to establish the key of a following piece or to fill brief interludes in a church service. Their improvisatory origins were often reflected in rhythmic freedom and virtuosic runs. A section in this style would often lead to a closing fugal section; in time this turned into a separate movement, and preludes came to be paired with fugues. In the 17th century, preludes began to be frequently written for lute or harpsichord. In later years the term came to be used for short piano pieces, often in sets, by composers such as Frédéric Chopin, Aleksandr Scriabin, and Claude Debussy.
* * *▪ musicmusical composition, usually brief, that is generally played as an introduction to another, larger musical piece. The term is applied generically to any piece preceding a religious or secular ceremony, including in some instances an operatic performance. In the 17th century, organists in particular began to write loosely structured preludes to rigorously conceived fugues. The most notable composer of preludes, J.S. Bach, gave each prelude its own distinct character; some are akin to arias, others to dance forms, toccatas, or inventions.The preludes of Frédéric Chopin (Chopin, Frédéric) and Claude Debussy (Debussy, Claude) are brief, self-contained pieces that vary widely in character but that often explore a particular mood. Chopin wrote études that differ little structurally from some of his preludes, while Debussy's two books of preludes bear descriptive titles reflecting their evocative, sometimes rhapsodic moods, a quality captured perhaps more perfectly in Debussy's brilliant orchestral Prélude à l'aprés-midi d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun). Preludes and fugues written in the 20th century include notably those of the Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich. A variety of modern piano suites (e.g., Opus 25, Arnold Schoenberg's dodecaphonic work) also open with preludes, generally monothematic pieces intended to evoke the spirit and practice of the early 18th century.
* * *