most of the bars in this short prelude have a clear rhythmic marking: Its all sextuplets and the right hand is clearly aligned with the left as the score indicates, where the right hand melody starts at the second sextuplet (Bars A and B in the example image).

However there are some bars where this changes, shifting the right hand to the starting sextuplet, and the alignment with the left and is not so clear. The score a quintuplet, for which all notes except the first would not be lined up with the left hand. (Bars C and D in the example image).

enter image description here

Following the score, the last left hand note is never aligned with the third right hand note (green dotted line, in all bars A, B, C and D).

Listening to some interpretations though, it sounds as if the right hand in bars C and D is still interpreted as sextuplets starting on one, and leaving a rest at the end, with the consequence that the third right hand notes and left hand notes are suddenly played unisono (red dotted line on bars C and D, second image).

enter image description here

This happens both in Kissin's recording

as well as when played by Paul Barton where he explicitly talks about the rhythm of this piece

at exactly 2:40

Am I reading the score wrong or is this just a common creative freedom of interpretation of this piece?

  • 1
    The quintuplet bars are marked with an "a)". That looks like there could be a variant somewhere in a footnote or in the back of the score. Have you tried to look at that note? Also your green lines in the quintuplet bars are incorrect since the third note of a quintuplet is slightly before its middle, so that note will be played only a tiny bit after the last note in the LH.
    – Ramillies
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 20:56
  • @Ramillies both good observations. The image is a screenshot from Kissin's video. My own score doesn't have the a) remark and no variants written. On the second point, yes, that is correct that the third quintuplet is not on a downbeat, but the important thing is that is not aligned with the left hand
    – hirschme
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 20:59
  • @Ramillies but you have a good point there. Even if it was perfectly executed from the score, at the speed Kissin is playing it it would be really hard to hear. (Paul Barton's playing is a different story as he explicitly plays both hands unisono)
    – hirschme
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 21:02

1 Answer 1


I’d say that many - if not all - performances differ from score, as each score is only an approximation of the musical intention of the composer.

Only a computer will play exactly what is written - because this machine is not a musician.

In the other way: If you want to notate exactly the performance of an artist the score would be unreadable because of all the fine differentiations of minimal note values.

Now this example of Chopin with sixtuplets and quintuplets is intended by the composer. I’d play the 6 as 2x3 and the 5 as 2 and 3, whereby I‘d play 2 as hemioles so that the 2nd triplets are similar in all measures and the melody of the 2nd half of each bar remains rhythmically the same.

(When I‘ve learnt this piece I probably ignored this little deviation and played all arpeggios as sixtuplets.)

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