Sergey Rachmaninov

Prelude for piano No. 1 in C sharp minor ("The Bells of Moscow"), Op. 3/2

    Description by Robert Cummings

    While Rachmaninov's early compositions divulge the influence of Tchaikovsky, this Prelude in C sharp minor foreshadows his later style and is one of his most masterfully crafted compositions from his student years. It was written, in fact, shortly after he graduated from the Moscow Conservatory, and dedicated to one of his teachers there, Arensky. Chronologically it came first in the group of pieces Rachmaninov composed for a set he entitled Morceaux de Fantasie. He placed it second among three other works, then added a fourth. The others in the set are Elegie (No. 1), Melodie (No. 3), Polichinelle (No. 4), and Serenade (No. 5).

    The C sharp minor Prelude became popular immediately after Rachmaninov premiered it on October 8, 1892. He had to accommodate audiences at virtually every recital he gave thereafter by including it as an encore. Rachmaninov played it so often, in fact, that he grew tired of the piece.

    The Prelude begins with ominous descending chords that lead to one of the composer's most melancholy and memorable themes. Its slow lilting character, conveyed in big gloomy chords, is reminiscent of tolling bells on a dark wintry night, an image which accounts for its nickname, "The Bells of Moscow." The theme offers no consolation in its dire gloom, but instead proceeds to proudly proclaim its beguiling pessimism. The middle section is restless and tense, not breaking the dark mood, but offering livelier and more driven music before returning to the chordal theme with doubled intensity.

    In the end, despite damning judgments so often associated with short popular piano works, this piece must be considered one of the most perfect from Rachmaninov's early years and a masterpiece of the late nineteenth century keyboard literature. A typical performance of the Prelude lasts about four-and-a-half minutes. Today, it is rarely heard as part of the entire set of the Morceaux de Fantasie and is still programmed separately or as an encore. While it remains popular, it is performed far less than it was 50 or 100 years ago. Rachmaninov made an arrangement of it for two pianos in 1938.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Decca 4840764
    2019 Naxos 8574025
    2018 Menuetto Classics
    2018 Audite AUD 97739
    2018 APR (Appian) APR 7309
    2018 Harmonia Mundi HMM 902339
    2017 APR (Appian) APR 7505
    2016 A Life of Music Records
    2016 Berlin Classics 0300719 BC
    2016 Piano Classics PCLM 0111
    2016 Sleeveless SLV 1010
    2016 APR (Appian) APR 7307
    2015 Domo PWDOM 732142
    2015 Johan Åhlén RN 501741
    2015 Signum Classics SIGCD 425
    2015 MSR Classics MS 1502
    2015 Classic FM CFMD 37
    2015 Piano Classics PCL 0089
    2015 Piano Classics PCL 0078
    2015 Somm SMM 143
    2015 Fondamenta FON 1401017
    2015 Alto / Musical Concepts MCSCD 6005
    2015 ABC Classics ABC 4812222
    2015 ABC Classics ABC 4812227
    2015 Sono Luminus DSL 92187
    2015 BNL Productions BNL 112978
    2015 Meridian Records CDE 84632
    2014 100 Hits / Demon DMG100 129
    2014 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186531
    2014 Three Oranges Recordings 3OR 09
    2014 Three Oranges Recordings
    2014 Three Oranges Recordings
    2014 Three Oranges Recordings 3OR 19
    2014 Guild / Guild Historical GHCD 2423
    2014 Piano Classics PCLD 0065
    2014 Decca
    2014 Decca 4786348
    2014 Decca 4786765
    2014 ABC Classics ABC 4811126
    2014 APR (Appian) APR 5505
    2013 Decca
    2013 Erato / Virgin Classics 341372C
    2013 Entertainment Group 14160
    2013 Entertainment Group 14163
    2013 Entertainment Group 14164
    2013 BIS BIS 9044
    2013 Challenge Classics CC 72587
    2013 Apex
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94726
    2013 Oehms Classics OC 845
    2013 Decca 4785093
    2012 Big Eye / Cleopatra / Unchained Melodie BGECD 159
    2012 EMI Classics
    2012 EMI Classics 5099967908
    2012 BD Jazz / Zebralution
    2012 LP Classics 1005
    2012 Brilliant Classics 9265
    2012 Signum Classics SIGDCD 308
    2012 Decca / Mercury Living Presence 001653302
    2012 Alto 1187
    2012 Signum Classics SIGCD 305
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 4783370
    2012 Naïve V 5296
    2012 The Entertainment Group 107549
    2012 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099960257
    2012 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 12052
    2012 Mirare MIR 169
    2011 Classics & Jazz / Universal / Universal Classics & Jazz
    2011 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2011 RCA Red Seal 886919369120
    2011 TGG Direct 60213
    2011 Ameson 1020
    2011 Urtext JBCC197
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099990714
    2011 TGG Direct 60209
    2011 Varèse Sarabande 3020670862
    2011 Parlophone
    2011 Bridge BRIDGE9348
    2011 SOMM SOMM 0110
    2011 Divine Art dda 25095
    2011 X5 Music Group
    2010 Avid 577
    2010 Universal
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099968582
    2010 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 5099945890
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099962792
    2010 Sonoma SGC 20141
    2010 IBA [Idil Biret Archives] 8571281
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Sonoma 179
    2010 Sonoma 126
    2010 Hyperion 30015
    2010 Decca
    2010 TwoPianists 103903
    2010 Documents / Membran 232598
    2010 Decca 4782374
    2010 Decca
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 447 105-2GH
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099926475
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Brilliant Classics 9014
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 RCA 8869748971
    2009 Hyperion CDA67700
    2009 EMI Classics
    2009 Elite Special / Zebralution
    2009 Decca 4765900
    2009 Cameo 2081
    2008 EMI Classics 3385212
    2008 X5 Music Group
    2008 Divine Art 24125
    2008 Warner Classics
    2008 Virgin Classics 562458
    2008 EMI Classics 385265
    2008 Berlin Classics 0115092
    2008 MSR Classics 1260
    2008 Brilliant Classics 6981
    2008 ABC Classics 4766469
    2008 APR (Appian) 5665
    2007 Sanctuary CDRSN3096
    2007 Naxos / Naxos Nostalgia 8120569
    2007 Pierian 0028
    2007 Guild 7310
    2007 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2007 Lyrita 216
    2007 Living Era Classics 2014
    2007 Melodiya 1001030
    2007 Decca 4758238
    2007 EMI Classics
    2007 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099950087
    2007 Naxos 8570327
    2007 Challenge Records 72168
    2007 Rca Red Seal 709585
    2007 Decca
    2007 JAV Recordings JAV166
    2006 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0946370872
    2006 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 0946365645
    2006 Classic Concert 62032
    2006 Northern Flowers 9939
    2006 Madacy / Start TC 252373
    2006 SPJ Music 95802
    2006 APR (Appian) 5585
    2006 Eroica Distribution 3290
    2006 Eroica Distribution 3273
    2006 RCA Victor 60568
    2006 RCA 67892
    2006 Big Eye Music 4405
    2005 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 0946338522
    2005 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0946370886
    2005 Madacy 3392
    2005 Capitol/Liberty / Liberty 34410
    2005 SPJ Music 5654
    2005 SPJ Music 97004
    2005 Naxos 8558155-56
    2005 Vocalion 4285
    2005 Brilliant 92615
    2005 Decca 4756368
    2005 Virgin Classics 562481-2
    2005 Classic Concert 102161
    2005 Apex 4620362
    2005 EMI Classics 57943
    2005 Arte Nova 277950
    2005 Mirare 4
    2005 Dux Records 438
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 55592
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 85072
    2005 Raven 780
    2005 Naxos 8552113-14
    2004 Ivory Records 74002
    2004 Madacy 4815
    2004 Madacy 50133
    2004 Saga Jazz / Saga Records 0664742
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 000269736
    2004 Mercury 4706392
    2004 Delta Distribution 16330
    2003 Avid Records 577
    2003 Philips 000150902
    2003 Naxos 8110675
    2003 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) 40285
    2003 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 85270
    2003 Rca Red Seal 74321 88679-2
    2003 Chandos 10107
    2003 Delta Distribution 40040
    2003 Madacy 5592
    2003 Madacy HFP 23396
    2003 Telarc Distribution 80626
    2003 Naxos 8 110783/4
    2003 BMG 82876571402
    2003 Marquis Classics 82501
    2002 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) 40184
    2002 Big Eye Music 4253
    2002 Decca 470457
    2002 Brilliant 6368
    2002 Naxos Historical 8110692
    2002 Vox Music Masters 90112
    2002 Decca 472589
    2002 Telarc Distribution 80338
    2002 Madacy 5595
    2002 Pro Organo 7141
    2001 Pearl 0102
    2001 Legacy Entertainment CBX001
    2001 St. Clair 7313
    2001 Ornament 11451
    2001 London/Decca / Decca 289468506
    2001 Berlin Classics 0017332
    2001 Erato 85770
    2001 DG Panorama / Deutsche Grammophon 2GP2-469-256
    2001 Deutsche Grammophon 469286
    2001 St. Clair 7366
    2001 CBC Records 5143
    2001 Nimbus 1736
    2001 Arte Nova 27795
    2001 Ivory Records 72002
    2001 Four Winds 3019
    2001 Andante 2996-2999
    2000 Pulse 559
    2000 Castle Music Ltd. 517/5
    2000 Pulse / Castle Pulse 556
    2000 Tring 001
    2000 Decca 465819
    2000 Naxos 8 555319/20
    2000 Cleopatra 806
    2000 Direct Source Special 6253
    2000 Direct Source 83682
    2000 Nimbus 8819
    2000 Direct Source 6522
    2000 Madacy 9476
    2000 BIS 883
    2000 Direct Source Special 62162
    2000 Rca Red Seal 902668992
    2000 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) / Eclipse Music Group 64534
    2000 Rca Red Seal 63002
    2000 Rca Red Seal 63035
    2000 Multisonic 310181
    2000 Platinum Entertainment 526
    2000 Platinum Entertainment 672
    2000 Decca
    2000 Philips / Philips 464381
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 574 029-2
    2000 RCA 51366
    2000 Sony Classical 60993
    2000 RCA 63612
    1999 SPJ Music 1453
    1999 Madacy 9505
    1999 Philips 464 000-2
    1999 JRB 9004
    1999 Philips 462232
    1999 Philips 454987
    1999 Philips 456916
    1999 Philips 456835
    1999 Cambria 1410
    1999 Seraphim UK 73300
    1999 Kingdom Records 2002
    1999 Warner Classics
    1999 Naxos 505029
    1999 Ivory Classics / Ivory Records 70902
    1999 Decca 4664622
    1999 Platinum Entertainment 1401
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 68807
    1999 RCA Red Seal 63000
    1999 Philips 456748
    1999 Philips 456874
    1998 Pulse / Castle Pulse PBXCD 556
    1998 Town Hall 40
    1998 Eclipse Records 520
    1998 SPJ Music 90005
    1998 Russian Revelation 10033
    1998 Point Classics 2672132
    1998 London 458930
    1998 Nimbus 5575
    1998 Leonarda 344
    1998 Whirlybird Records 9855
    1998 RCA Red Seal 902668442
    1998 Classic FM 8
    1997 Aca Digital 20059
    1997 Otello 1004
    1997 Michele Audio 1005
    1997 Valois 4792
    1997 Telarc Distribution CD 80477
    1997 Four Winds 3004
    1997 Intersound / Lifestyle Classics 1729
    1997 RCA 68788
    1997 London
    1997 London 455234
    1997 Philips 456403
    1997 Naxos 556682
    1997 Dutton Laboratories 2002
    1997 Marston 52004
    1997 Madacy 3701
    1997 Pearl 9277
    1996 Vox 8818
    1996 Naxos 504010
    1996 EMI Music Distribution 55560
    1996 London 448946
    1996 Dorian 90218
    1996 RCA 61968
    1996 T Records 9951
    1996 Madacy 8722
    1996 Pavane 7368
    1996 RCA Victor Red Seal 40378
    1996 Sony Classical 62366
    1996 Danica 8135
    1996 Centaur Records 2483
    1995 Madacy 400
    1995 Madacy 5665
    1995 Madacy Distribution / GMS Records / Madacy LPC-7610
    1995 Telarc Distribution 80391
    1995 VAI Audio 1047
    1995 Seraphim UK / Warner Classics 7243569028
    1995 London 443841
    1995 IMP Classics 2052
    1995 APR (Appian) 5505
    1994 DM Records 1037
    1994 Naxos 8 550647
    1994 VAI Audio 1065
    1994 Madacy 8709
    1994 RCA 62662
    1994 EMI Classics 64787
    1994 EtCetera Records 2013
    1994 Naxos 550215
    1994 Sony Classical 64056
    1994 Madacy 9108
    1994 VAI Audio 1036
    1993 Music & Arts 746
    1993 Laserlight 14128
    1993 EMI Classics 67783
    1993 Erato 91714
    1993 RCA 61679
    1993 Philips
    1993 Philips 438383
    1993 Vox Cameo Classics 8760
    1993 Maxiplay 857
    1992 Celestial Harmonies 14056
    1992 London 436386
    1992 Capitol/EMI Records / EMI Music Distribution 67205
    1992 Nimbus 5094
    1992 RCA Victor 60973
    1991 Arabesque Z6616
    1991 CBS Records 46271
    1991 Mercury 432759
    1990 Sony Music Distribution 45629
    1990 RCA 60568
    1988 Otello 1012
    ASV 5112
    Koch International Classics 7013
    Polskie Nagrania 060
    Aangenaam 1995
    AK-AK 4
    Seraphim UK 69590
    Town Hall 40
    Spectacle Entertainment 20008
    Fonoteca 960405
    EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 69527
    EXT 3004
    Excelsior Recordings 4294
    Public Music Inc. 1023
    Madrigal Audio
    Vox 8802
    SCD 6020
    Manchester 146
    EMI Music Distribution 67718
    Philips 422268
    Time/Life Music 11B
    Sony Music Distribution 61987
    Eclipse Records 517-2
    Brilliant 92615/7
    In Classical Mood 12034
    Exultate 110
    Protone Records 1101
    Dante 54/55
    EMI Music Distribution 7691142
    Ades 20393
    London 411934
    Measure for Measure
    Panton Records 811282
    Madacy 52374
    BMG 68585
    EMI Music Distribution 66403
    Eroica Distribution 3080
    Deutsche Grammophon 476820
    London 443810/4
    Bescol 540
    CBS Records 39437
    Intersound 2086
    RCA 37713
    Gemini 608
    XXI 1622
    Paula Records 46
    Emsco Productions 5852
    Manchester 105
    Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 110
    Testament 1349
    EMI Classics 97170
    IMP Classics 1081
    APR (Appian) 7013
    Grammofono 2000 78539
    Sirio 530017
    Revelation Records 60002
    Sipario Dischi 101
    Opus 3 9202
    ABC Classics 4766471
    ABC Classics 4763384
    ABC Classics 4766301
    Revelation Records 40003
    IMP Classics 18137
    Newport Classic 60020
    Telarc Distribution 80129
    Hangar 21
    LPC 7612
    Decca 475 8091DB5
    Arlecchino 132
    Nimbus 4007
    Excelsior Recordings 4802
    EXLB 4802