"Prelude" was the second of two pieces written while studying with Samuel Adler in Berlin, Germany. Its main assignment was to write a piece that focuses more on color and harmony, and creates an atmosphere. Influence of Mahler's 9th symphony does creep up, especially later in the piece, but it merely enhances the work, rather than taking it over. Pulsing notes in the upper strings create movement and move the piece forward along with rich harmonies. A 12-tone serial line is played in the solo viola near the middle of the work, but the outlying harmonies may trick the listener into thinking they have heard otherwise.