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CHOPIN // Preludes, Barcarolles…

Joacquín Achúcarro,

The pianist Joaquín Achúcarro celebrated his eighty-fifth birthday by recording Chopin for the first time. He assures us that he is feeling unusually fit and that, for the moment, he is not thinking of leaving the concert scene. ‘I want to keep playing everything: Mozart, Brahms . . . Fate will decide when I retire’, he says.


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The Preludes are not little jewels arranged side by side; they form a whole, a gigantic work. Each prelude, however brief it may be, presents a particular mood and constitutes a world in itself. We are dealing here with twenty-four ‘psychological studies’, twenty-four states of mind: humanity, joy, rage, heroism, defeat, triumph, love, nostalgia, sadness, hope, resignation, and so on – all of them feelings with which Chopin was perfectly familiar.

Joaquín Achúcarro waited a long time before recording the Preludes because he wanted to have the impression that he had totally assimilated them, to the extent that they became, so to speak, a part of his subconscious; almost like establishing a friendship with a living being. From that point on, he was ready to go into the recording studio.

24 Preludes op.28


  • Prelude n°1 in C major – Agitato 0’41
  • Prelude n°2 in A minor – Lento 2’09
  • Prelude n°3 in G major – Vivace 1’11
  • Prelude n°4 in E minor – Largo 2’06
  • Prelude n°5 in D major – Allegro molto 0’42
  • Prelude n°6 in B minor – Lento assai 1’57
  • Prelude n°7 in A major  – Andantino 0’48
  • Prelude n°8 in F sharp minor – Molto agitato 2’11
  • Prelude n°9 in E major – Largo 1’25
  • Prelude n°10 in C sharp minor – Allegro molto 0’36
  • Prelude n°11 in B major – Vivace 0’40
  • Prelude n°12 in G sharp minor – Presto 1’26
  • Prelude n°13 in F sharp major – Lento 3’37
  • Prelude n°14 in E flat minor – Allegro 0’45
  • Prelude n°15 in D flat major – Sostenuto 6’04
  • Prelude n°16 in B flat minor – Presto con fuoco 1’14
  • Prelude n°17 in A flat major – Allegretto 4’10
  • Prelude n°18 in F minor – Allegro molto 1’02
  • Prelude n°19 in E flat major – Vivace 1’34
  • Prelude n°20 in C minor – Largo 1’43
  • Prelude n°21 in B flat major – Cantabile 2’06
  • Prelude n°22 in G minor – Molto agitato 0’54
  • Prelude n°23 in F major – Moderato 1’05
  • Prelude n°24 in D minor – Allegro appassionato 2’56


  • Prelude op.45 in C sharp minor 5’43
  • Prelude op. posthume in A Flat major 1’04
  • Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, op. posth. 66 6’15
  • Nocturne in E flat major, op.9 no.2 5’03
  • Nocturne no.20 in C sharp minor, op. posth. 4’12
  • Barcarolle in F sharp major, op.60 8’54


A series of crucial encounters have marked Joaquín Achúcarro’s life, from his first public recital in Bilbao at the age of thirteen (Mozart’s Concerto K466) to the First Prize at the Liverpool International Concerto Competition in May 1959.

After studying with José Cubiles in Madrid, he then worked with Guido Agosti at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Walter Gieseking, Nikita Magaloff and Bruno Seidlhofer. His triumph in Liverpool paved the way for his international career. In 1960, Achúcarro performed Schumann’s Concerto in Trieste (with a young conductor by the name of Claudio Abbado . . .) and gave his first recital in Germany. Since then, he has performed with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Tokyo Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The list of prestigious orchestras he has played with is impressive, as is his repertoire focusing on Romanticism and music of the first half of the twentieth century.

‘He gets a sound that I’ve only heard with Rubinstein’, says Zubin Mehta; according to Simon Rattle, ‘Very few musicians can get that sound out of a piano.’ Achúcarro himself confides: ‘I’ve spent my whole life trying to make the piano sing.’

A keyboard art which Joaquín Achúcarro endeavours to transmit to others: for several years now, he has taught at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

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