Definition of prelude in English:



  • 1An action or event serving as an introduction to something more important.

    ‘a ceasefire had been agreed as a prelude to full peace negotiations’
    • ‘It now expects prices to drop 10% - 15% as a prelude to stagnation.’
    • ‘The channel will telecast exclusive footage on Nikita on June 1 at 9 p.m. as a prelude to the telecast of the event.’
    • ‘Hopefully it forms a brief diversion from the main action, and a prelude to the character development and genuinely shocking revelations of the third volume.’
    • ‘The Woodland Trust, as a prelude to National Tree Week, is holding family planting events from November 18-23 in its Tree For All initiative.’
    • ‘The event is a prelude to the Hong Kong International Races on December 12.’
    • ‘The Lubavitcher Rebbe emphasizes that these remarkable events are merely a prelude to the final redemption.’
    • ‘The state of emergency is a prelude to the introduction of a raft of measures presented to parliament on Tuesday in an 80-clause Bill.’
    • ‘Freedom of expression is therefore, one of the very first freedoms to be curtailed when a democracy is being undermined, either as a prelude to a coup d'état or as an early step in the process of gradual tyrannization.’
    • ‘I think of Thanksgiving as a prelude to the big event of December and all the wonderful foods I will undoubtedly be consuming.’
    • ‘That, though, was just a prelude to the disastrous events that have befallen the new school.’
    • ‘As a prelude to the main event, the team will walk the 25 km from Changi Prison to Tanjung Pagar Railway Station in Singapore.’
    • ‘While on its voyage, and after it had left Indonesian waters, but not yet reached Australian waters the ship became progressively unseaworthy - a prelude to the disaster that saw its demise.’
    • ‘A contest and talent hunt will be held as a prelude to the event.’
    • ‘Organised by the Avishkar Kala Kendram, as a prelude to its second anniversary celebrations, the programme at the Kerala Fine Arts Hall has been staged more than 55 times in the country.’
    • ‘Freshers' Cuppers - a prelude to the Freshers' Varsity match taking place on 7 November - saw a good turnout of athletes and many strong performances from athletes old and new.’
    preliminary, overture, opening, preparation, introduction, start, beginning, curtain-raiser, lead-in, precursor, forerunner, harbinger, herald
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  • 2An introductory piece of music, most commonly an orchestral opening to an act of an opera, the first movement of a suite, or a piece preceding a fugue.

    • ‘Gone are the days of programming a Bach prelude & fugue, a Beethoven sonata, a Chopin ballade and then ending with the Prokofiev Toccata.’
    • ‘The prelude of the first suite was played dizzyingly fast but without any perceptible regular pulse, as was that of the fifth suite.’
    • ‘A recent project of yours has been the orchestration of Debussy preludes.’
    • ‘When I first heard these pieces, they reminded me of the Bach 48 preludes and fugues in form and coherence, if not in content and style’
    • ‘Bach, in ordering his preludes and fugues, moved up the keyboard from C Major to C Minor to C# Major to C# Minor to D Major, and so forth.’
    • ‘The Five Star Brass Navy Band Northwest Brass Quintet provided a musical prelude to the Opening Session.’
    • ‘When I was studying Bach - the preludes and the fugues - it was very hard for me because my hands were playing different voices at different times.’
    • ‘The orchestral prelude of the work isn't necessarily my favorite and part of why I find the piece itself fraught with a few problems.’
    • ‘There is also the legacy of an enormous quantity of piano music, including two and three-part inventions and thirteen volumes (each containing twenty-four preludes and fugues) of The tempered piano.’
    • ‘The suites mostly have four short movements, a prelude or allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue, with some variants.’
    • ‘The latter part of the book includes a guide to the individual preludes and fugues that digs into the influences reflected in each piece, its stylistic background and provenance.’
    • ‘After the Brahms and the Haydn he learned three preludes and fugues of Bach, two Beethoven sonatas, a nocturne by Chopin, and pieces by Schumann and Ravel.’
    • ‘The original 1857 orchestral prelude is only rarely being heard these days and so the Chailly CD is a true gem for connoisseurs of Verdi operas.’
    • ‘One clue was provided by Bach himself in his C minor cello suite, which begins with a prelude and fugue for solo cello.’
    • ‘From the opening orchestral prelude, the depth and intensity of Bloch's vision of the Old Testament roll over the listener.’
    • ‘His surviving output consists solely of instrumental music, including organ preludes and fugues, concertos for two harpsichords, and trio sonatas, much of it strongly influenced by Bach.’
    • ‘There is a long orchestral prelude, and the orchestra plays an extremely important role throughout.’
    • ‘I've used Berrini's Op. 29 Etudes for years, but I never knew he made his own four-hand arrangements of Bach's twenty-four preludes and fugues.’
    • ‘Other works include The Nativity for soprano and orchestra, sacred choral anthems, hymn preludes for organ and works for trumpet and organ.’
    • ‘On this occasion he will be performing one prelude and fugue by Bach, a Hungarian Rhapsody by Liszt and ‘Airs of Spain’ by Albeniz.’
    • ‘King opts for slower tempos than expected, illuminating every stately arpeggio in the opening instrumental prelude until the explosive entry of the voices.’
    overture, introductory movement, introduction, opening, voluntary
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    1. 2.1 A short piece of music of a style similar to a prelude, especially for the piano.
      • ‘Hurried, resounding strains of a Rachmaninoff prelude are abruptly cut short.’
      • ‘The majority of these preludes are short in length, ranging from sixteen to thirty-two measures.’
      • ‘For At the Edge of Night Baynes used seven Rachmaninoff piano preludes to generate an atmosphere of dreams and remembrance.’
      • ‘Ruth Foss, from the Music Division of the Library of Congress, guides us through the preludes with a short and precise sentence on each of them.’
      • ‘Accompanied by Debussy piano preludes interpreted by Steve Gosling, the dancers took wing, as though they were laughing through the air.’
      • ‘Considered as a collection, these preludes provide variety in terms of musical style, tempo, overall mood and organ registrations.’
      • ‘There are various Dutch titled preludes rather similar to the more erstwhile Bach style but at the same time retaining that unique Sweelinck touch.’
      • ‘British composer Colin Matthews is orchestrating all 24 of Debussy's piano preludes, a project which many will find either foolhardy or sacrilegious.’
      • ‘The core group plays the first three items, Antheil's second violin sonata, three preludes for piano by Gordon Rumson, and Takemitsu's piano trio, Between Tides.’
      • ‘He's also found time to be the pianist on this unusual release, which includes seventeen of his short works for saxophone and twelve equally short preludes for piano.’
      • ‘The Beethoven Violin Sonata in C minor is admirably played, and arrangements of Shostakovich piano preludes make an attractive opener to a stimulating programme.’
      • ‘This collection of preludes for piano is a treasure waiting to be explored.’
    2. 2.2 The introductory part of a poem or other literary work.
      • ‘But the prelude tantalises in what it reveals, and represses.’
      • ‘The unnamed mistress, of whom the first eight lines are prelude, is finally addressed, but not until line nine- ‘As I meet thee.’’
      introduction, preface, prologue, foreword, preamble
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  • Serve as a prelude or introduction to.

    ‘the bombardment preluded an all-out final attack’
    • ‘A tap at the door preluded its opening, and a middle-aged man with fading red hair walked in, accompanied by his elder daughter.’
    • ‘In the ritualistic piece that preludes actual narration, the Chakyar depicts how he has come a long way down to earth from heaven.’
    • ‘Each visit to her mother was preluded by a mental perfection check list - Kelly dressed in one of her grandmother's latest frou-frou proper girl dresses, which usually included lace or frills or both.’
    • ‘It was preluded by part of a different ballet called Ellipse, and I really liked those dances too.’
    • ‘The sound of twigs snapping violently and a stumble preluded Rafel's voice.’
    • ‘In Adisa's text the ritual of female sympathy preludes and provides a way of regaining access to the past and allowing it to attain the form of narrative memory.’
    • ‘In all of this merrymaking, I cannot overlook the meticulous research into instruments and music that preludes such an undertaking.’
    • ‘When performed live this song was often preluded by descriptions of the harrowing experience many faced simply trying to find a tolerant and peaceful home, away from their places of birth.’
    • ‘In the statements he made yesterday, Moussa indicated that the September ministerial meeting could prelude the Arab summit.’
    • ‘Easter and Passover are different markers in the second term; they may warn of a long spring left for redeeming the time, or they may prelude the May graduation just around the corner.’


Mid 16th century: from French prélude, from medieval Latin praeludium, from Latin praeludere ‘play beforehand’, from prae ‘before’ + ludere ‘to play’.