Recorded on 10/21/1990, uploaded on 03/21/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Written alongside the opus 94 Impromptus during 1827, the second set of four was not published until after the composer’s death. In both cases, the title “Impromptus” was not given by Schubert himself but instead by his publisher, Haslinger. Certainly, the title seems a little inappropriate as none of the eight Impromptus conveys an overwhelming sense of “off-the-cuff” performance that the title would otherwise suggest. Even in the moments where it may seem so, it would be foolish to assume such since with Schubert, as with the other great masters, the most profound statements are often achieved by remarkably simple means, and thus betraying the presence of forethought and conscious effort. Further suggesting this is the fact that Robert Schumann, a great admirer of Schubert’s music and insightful music critic, believed that Schubert may have intended the four pieces as a sonata, noting motivic connections and the close relationship of the keys used, particularly between the first and last of the set. Through this view is generally regarded as false—there are distinct differences and Schubert initially numbered them as five through eight, indicating a continuation of the first set—it nonetheless shows that enough planning was put into the set to create four independent pieces that together form a sound whole.
The second Impromptu, in A-flat major, is a beautiful Allegretto opening with a solemn hymn-like tune, which has been noted for its similarity to the opening theme of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in A-flat, op. 26. Peaceful and consoling, the hymn tune becomes more fervent, even majestic, in its middle phrase as it reaches the key of G-flat minor with fortissimo chords, before Schubert deftly returns to the calming strain which opened the piece. In the central episode, marked “Trio,” the music shifts to the key of the subdominant as a persistent triplet figure reaches heavenward over a bass the emphasizes the second beat of the measure. Following its initial phrase, the trio moves through the key of D-flat minor before reaching a triumphal climax in A major. By a bridge of eight measures, leading back to the tonic key of A-flat, the listener is returned to the solemn tones of the opening melody. Joseph DuBose
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