A Study of the Twenty-Four Preludes for Solo Piano (1968) by Richard Cumming

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



First Advisor

Stanley Waldoff

Advisor Department



This study opens with a biography of the composer Richard Cumming, contains a discussion of his musical training, and details his career as a piano soloist, as a professional accompanist, and as a composer of music for piano, theater, chamber groups, and singers. The second chapter, "A Brief History of the Evolution of the Prelude for Solo Piano," traces the prelude as it evolved from the early organ preludes of the fifteenth century Ileborgh tablature (1448) to the twentieth-century piano examples of such composers as Shostakovitch, Hindemith, and Kabalevsky. It includes mention of the major compositions and styles of each musical period, including the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Impressionistic, and Contemporary eras. The main portion of the study provides a stylistic and harmonic analysis of each of the Twenty-Four Preludes of Cumming, with sixty-one musical examples, as well as background information on their composition. A summary chapter discusses Cumming's compositional techniques in the Preludes, with regard to melody, harmony, rhythm, texture, form, and technical difficulty. The final section explains the pedagogical usefulness of the works. The bibliography, in addition to listing books and journal articles, includes a discography of Richard Cumming's compositions and his own performances. Appendices contain a table of musical elements in the Preludes, the scores of four unpublished preludes originally intended for the collection, a letter of permission from Boosey and Hawkes, Inc., and programs from the author's doctoral recitals.