Definition of prelude in English:



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

    ‘education cannot simply be a prelude to a career’
    • ‘As a prelude to the main event, the team will walk the 25 km from Changi Prison to Tanjung Pagar Railway Station in Singapore.’
    • ‘The event is a prelude to the Hong Kong International Races on December 12.’
    • ‘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 channel will telecast exclusive footage on Nikita on June 1 at 9 p.m. as a prelude to the telecast of the event.’
    • ‘A contest and talent hunt will be held as a prelude to the event.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The Lubavitcher Rebbe emphasizes that these remarkable events are merely a prelude to the final redemption.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It now expects prices to drop 10% - 15% as a prelude to stagnation.’
    • ‘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.’
    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.

    • ‘The Five Star Brass Navy Band Northwest Brass Quintet provided a musical prelude to the Opening Session.’
    • ‘The prelude of the first suite was played dizzyingly fast but without any perceptible regular pulse, as was that of the fifth suite.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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’
    • ‘There is a long orchestral prelude, and the orchestra plays an extremely important role throughout.’
    • ‘On this occasion he will be performing one prelude and fugue by Bach, a Hungarian Rhapsody by Liszt and ‘Airs of Spain’ by Albeniz.’
    • ‘The suites mostly have four short movements, a prelude or allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue, with some variants.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Other works include The Nativity for soprano and orchestra, sacred choral anthems, hymn preludes for organ and works for trumpet and organ.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘From the opening orchestral prelude, the depth and intensity of Bloch's vision of the Old Testament roll over the listener.’
    • ‘King opts for slower tempos than expected, illuminating every stately arpeggio in the opening instrumental prelude until the explosive entry of the voices.’
    • ‘One clue was provided by Bach himself in his C minor cello suite, which begins with a prelude and fugue for solo cello.’
    • ‘Gone are the days of programming a Bach prelude & fugue, a Beethoven sonata, a Chopin ballade and then ending with the Prokofiev Toccata.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A recent project of yours has been the orchestration of Debussy preludes.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    overture, introductory movement, introduction, opening, voluntary
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    1. 2.1 A short introductory piece of music, especially for the piano.
      • ‘There are various Dutch titled preludes rather similar to the more erstwhile Bach style but at the same time retaining that unique Sweelinck touch.’
      • ‘Accompanied by Debussy piano preludes interpreted by Steve Gosling, the dancers took wing, as though they were laughing through the air.’
      • ‘Hurried, resounding strains of a Rachmaninoff prelude are abruptly cut short.’
      • ‘This collection of preludes for piano is a treasure waiting to be explored.’
      • ‘British composer Colin Matthews is orchestrating all 24 of Debussy's piano preludes, a project which many will find either foolhardy or sacrilegious.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The majority of these preludes are short in length, ranging from sixteen to thirty-two measures.’
      • ‘The Beethoven Violin Sonata in C minor is admirably played, and arrangements of Shostakovich piano preludes make an attractive opener to a stimulating programme.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Considered as a collection, these preludes provide variety in terms of musical style, tempo, overall mood and organ registrations.’
      • ‘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.’
    2. 2.2 The introductory part of a poem or other literary work.
      • ‘The unnamed mistress, of whom the first eight lines are prelude, is finally addressed, but not until line nine- ‘As I meet thee.’’
      • ‘But the prelude tantalises in what it reveals, and represses.’
      introduction, preface, prologue, foreword, preamble
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  • Serve as a prelude or introduction to.

    ‘the bombardment preluded an all-out final attack’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It was preluded by part of a different ballet called Ellipse, and I really liked those dances too.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In the ritualistic piece that preludes actual narration, the Chakyar depicts how he has come a long way down to earth from heaven.’
    • ‘In all of this merrymaking, I cannot overlook the meticulous research into instruments and music that preludes such an undertaking.’
    • ‘A tap at the door preluded its opening, and a middle-aged man with fading red hair walked in, accompanied by his elder daughter.’
    • ‘The sound of twigs snapping violently and a stumble preluded Rafel's voice.’
    • ‘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.’


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