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In this simplified Chopin's Prelude Op. 28 No. 20, the sustain pedal connects notes belonging to two separate slurs in the first and second measures.

Should the sustain pedal be left off for a moment before the following slur to "separate" the two phrases instead?

(Simplified)Chopin's Prelude Op. 28 No. 20

EDIT: Highlighted in the picture the part of the pedal section interested by the question.

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Ultimately, this is a musical decision, so either way is fine. However,...

If you want to play the music literally as written, then you would hold the pedal through, so that there's no break between the two slurred passages.

My personal preference, both in this simplified arrangement as well as the original, is to leave a small break — a "breath" — to separate the two.


The answers by LaurencePayne and JohnChernoff prompted a look at some various editions (IMSLP). The first edition, complete works, Mikuli, and Debussy editions give no pedal indications; however, the Cortot edition gives the same pedaling as in the OP arrangement: pedal across the two slurred segments.

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  • I don't see it that way - the pedal markings show up and down for each chord - not for each bar, and with different harmonies, holding over two bars can't be good. Am I missing something?
    – Tim
    Sep 3 at 10:35
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    @Tim The question and answer just concern pedaling between the final chord or the first bar and the first chord of the second. The remaining pedal indications — up/down for each chord — are played as written.
    – Aaron
    Sep 3 at 13:05
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The usual way is to hold the pedal down to sustain one chord, then play the next, and after that next has been played, change pedal. Rather like the sign shows - the 'pedal up/down' comes directly after the next chord is played, not before or as it's played. Slowing it all down a lot will allow understanding of the actual timing - it's an aquired art !

By cancelling that pedal before playing the next chord, there will be a slight gap in the sound.Which really isn't what this kind of pedalling is about.

Holding the pedal down for a whole bar here is not a good idea - the different harmonies will bleed into each other, making everything sound muddy and confused. Hence the pedal sign for each chord.

Half pedalling would be an option, but here, with 'ff' shown, extra volume would be afforded by using full pedalling.

EDIT: - just realised OP thinks the pedal actually stays down for the whole phrase! Then changes and is down for all of the next phrase. No! That's NOT what the (simplified?) dots say.They say, as earlier in my answer, to re-pedal every chord. Note the arrow heads in the pedal markings.

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    I don't think the OP thinks the pedal actually stays down for the whole phrase, not even in the unedited version. I just think the OP has noticed that the pedalling notation is exactly the same between the slurs as within them.
    – Dekkadeci
    Sep 3 at 12:37
  • @Tim To clarify the question is specifically related to connecting the 2 slurs, so in this case how the pedal is carried from the first to the second bar. NOT how to pedal within the slur or how to pedal in general.
    – Qvantvm
    Sep 3 at 13:51
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    @Qvantvm - now, I'm considering deleting this! Since the pedal mark for that particular bit is exactly the same as those previous (and after), continuing exactly the same seems like a good move, but now that I see the point of the question, since there are two distinct phrases (slurs), then yes, a very slight 'breath' would designate the end of one, and the beginning of the next.
    – Tim
    Sep 3 at 15:16
  • Thanks @Tim, for answering. I think it is fine if you want to delete. But may I suggest updating a new answer? I am interested in your experience and perhaps to find a general "rule".
    – Qvantvm
    Sep 3 at 15:48
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Up-down as each chord is played. A subtle lift at the end of each phrase is not a ridiculous idea, but I don't think it's needed here.

Rubinstein legato-pedals through. So do all the other YouTube versions I just looked at. That's good enough for me.

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Deliberately changing pedal before a new phrase can sometimes result in something not entirely dissimilar to when a choir collectively breathes before a barline - e.g., it can easily create a somewhat stilted/mechanical effect. I'd guess the written pedal marks are an attempt (presumably by an editor and not Chopin) to avoid that to some degree, though my own experience has been that following any non-overarching (i.e., several per measure) pedal markings too slavishly can easily cause that sort of thing regardless of intent.

My suggestion is therefore to note the reason for the marking and follow it as is natural for your own performance/interpretation.

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