An impromptu is a short piece of instrumental music that is reminiscient of an improvisation. This means that these works exhibit a certain character of spontaneity. The music shifts from one idea to another without any necessary calculation or caution. These properties give rise to a certain air of carefree latitude, the musical consequences of which are exquisite.
Impromptu No. 1 in A-flat Major, Op. 29
The first impromptu’s brilliant introduction is supported by its playful harmonic structure. The piece is a whirl of movement: its colourful nature is extemporaneous in its melodic shifts. One such shift then falls, as the previous mood subdues. It becomes sombre and expressive. Several trills then introduce a recapitulation of the beginning. The movement is restored, leaving everything in a clear resolution of chordal solidity.
Impromptu No. 2 in F-sharp Major, Op. 36
The second impromptu is a work of larger scale. Its beginning exhibits less movement: it is a work of humble chordal serenity. The middle section demands more attention. It is a cry of pride and achievement. The development is a difficult technical passage. More movement is used to show a learned curve from concrete statements. It washes the previous ideas cyclically, moving up and down repeatedly until it reaches a climax. When executed properly, this passage is very graceful and elegant. The conclusion of the piece resembles the introduction in its tranquility, yet the finishing cadence displays a flash of new confidence.
Impromptu No. 3 in G-flat Major, Op. 51
Chopin’s third impromptu is a shining presentation of extempore beauty. The music is of utmost melancholy, demanding of the interpreter an improvisatory character notwithstanding a technical mastery of some difficult passages. The left-hand melodies are smooth and peaceful, as the piece reaches its climax. The conclusion is a demonstration of great, firm negotiation.
Impromptu No. 4 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 66 — “Fantaisie-Impromptu”
Chopin completed this work in 1835, before he worked on the other impromptus. However, it was not published until after his death. It has since become a masterpiece of great fame.
The opening is a wash of minor colour with a gloomy melody. As the music progresses, the mood shifts to agitated anger and escalates until it reaches a most impressive climax. A quiet, expressive account then follows, moderato cantabile
. The tender melody forgets all tribulations formerly concerned. A presto
recapitulation follows, leaving no room for resolution. The ending is a dashing spectacle of burden, which dissolves into a soft, major conclusion.
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This page was last updated on 6 May 2013