Chopin – Fantaisie Impromptu

Chronologically the first of Chopin’s impromptus, the Fantasy-Impromptu was not intended by the composer for publication. The assumption arose that it was withheld on account of a stated similarity – unintentional, no doubt – to the Impromptu in E flat major by Ignaz Moscheles. However, Arthur Rubinstein, who came into the possession of one of its manuscripts, assumes that this work was sold to a grande dame (the Baroness d’Est), who simply wanted to have it as her exclusive property. One way or another, the C sharp minor Impromptu remained in the composer’s portfolio and, along with the other inedita, was supposed to have been consumed by fire.

This work has the shape of a reprise miniature, like the reverse of a form which is frequent in the nocturnes. In an impromptu, the outer sections are dominated by increased movement, while the middle section brings a dreamy lull. This shape was already familiar to Schubert; Chopin took it up and employed it also in his three later impromptus, establishing the pattern in a way that was far-removed from all schematicism. In his first impromptu, however, he could not avoid a certain schematicism. He did, though, offer a certain innovation in the area of texture. He had each of the hands play in a different metre: the right in duple time, the left in triple time. Hence the outer sections, adhering to an allegro agitato tempo, took on an almost etude-like appearance (bars 5–12). The middle section brings music that is typical of the slow sections of nocturnes. It proceeds at a moderato cantabile tempo, spinning out sotto voce a melody in D flat major, which returns a couple of times, as if unable to find a way out of the labyrinth. The accompaniment, which runs in even triplets – converges with it or nonchalantly avoids it (bars 43–50). In the hands of a master – as Huneker noted – it can be quite enchanting.

Genre: Impromptu

Key: C-sharp minor

Opus/WN: [Op. 66]

Creation date: 1833 – 1834 (autogr.: 1835)

Acc. to Fontana: 66

Acc. to Paderewski: IV/4 (pt. Fantaisie-Impromptu)

Acc. to Turło: 46

Instruments: piano

Composition dedicated to:

Frances Sarah d’Est


Fantasy-Impromptu; Copy (August Franchomme)
Fantasy-Impromptu; Presentation autograph
Fantasy-Impromptu; Copy
Fantasy-Impromptu; Copy (August Franchomme)

First Editions:

Fantasy-Impromptu [Op. 66] (French, J. Meissonnier)
Fantasy-Impromptu [Op. 66] (German, A.M. Schlesinger)
Fantasy-Impromptu [Op. 66] (English, Ewer & co.)

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