Prelude in G Major, Op. 23, No. 5 - Sergei Rachmaninof

Prelude in G Major, Op. 23, No. 5 by Sergei Rachmaninoff is a renowned solo piano piece composed by the Russian virtuoso pianist and composer in 1901. The haunting prelude is known as one of Rachmaninoff’s most recognizable works as well as one of the most iconic pieces in piano music.

History and Context

This prelude was written when Rachmaninoff was at the age of 17, the same time the composer was working on his first symphony. Composed in 1901, the work was first published in 1903, under the title Prelude in G Major, Op. 23, No. 5. Interestingly enough, the piece was first published without the composer’s name.

Before Rachmaninoff, similar prelude compositions penned by Bach and Chopin had already established a path for brief yet captivating piano pieces. Rachmaninoff expanded his prelude to flow through multiple sections with different melodic and harmonic settings.


The prelude is written in modified ternary form. This piece begins with the melody in the left hand and sustained chords in the right hand. A brief development section then brings an expressive mood, specifically through the subtle use of rubato and wide dynamic range . The prelude ends in full sonority as is common in pieces written at the time.

One of the main musical elements of the prelude is the motivic repetition. This technique was heavily utilized by Bach and Rachmaninoff in this prelude. The main melodic movement repeats multiple times throughout the composition and invites a sense of familiarity.


The prelude has been arranged and performed by many famous pianists worldwide since its release in the early 1900s. Rachmaninoff himself performed the work multiple times throughout his career. The work is frequently performed by students and professional pianists alike.

The piece’s strong melody and haunting nature has also been used in movies and television. The prelude is famously used in the Oscar-winning film “The Sting” from 1973.


Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G Major, Op. 23, No. 5 has been and continues to be a landmark piece in solo piano repertoire. This timeless work appeals to both professional and beginner pianists, demonstrating the genius of the composer Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Publication date: 18. 02. 2023