Recorded on 05/22/2012, uploaded on 05/22/2012
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Like the fantasia, the title “impromptu” is used to describe a piece of music written in an improvisatory manner. Its first recorded use was in 1817 by a publisher to describe a piece by the Czech composer Jan Václav Voříšek. More famously, however, Franz Schubert composed eight such pieces in 1827 and since then the term “impromptu” became popular with many Romantic and even 20th century composers. Ironically, many of the pieces that bear the title possess well delineated forms and betray a more rigorous thought process rather than spur-of-the-moment inspiration. Such is the case with Chopin’s impromptus.
Composed in 1842 and published the following year, the Impromptu No. 3 in G-flat major, op. 51 was dedicated to the Countess Esterházy. Though it appears as the third of the four Impromptus in the catalogue of Chopin’s work, the G-flat major Impromptu was actually the last composed—the Fantasie-Impromptu, op. 66, which appeared in print posthumously, was actually the first in order of composition and published by Chopin’s executor, Julian Fontana, against the composer’s wishes that all his unpublished should be destroyed after his death.
Though marked Tempo guisto (Allegro vivace), the Impromptu No. 3 possesses nonetheless a graceful charm and seemingly blithe contentedness in its demeanor. In 12/8 time, it opens with two measures of introductory material, a stream of eighth notes winding its way from the middle register of the piano into the first theme proper in the third measure. The theme flows along unhindered like a glittering stream, hardly dimmed at any moment, and at times rises upward along scale passages in flashes of exultation. Approaching the close of the Impromptu’s first thematic section, a gentle ebb and flow is created with the juxtaposition of legato chords outlining the beats of the measure and rushing fragments of the theme. The central episode adopts a somewhat mysterious air in its modulation to the key of the relative minor. A new espressivo melody, in common time, emerges in the left hand while the right hand maintains an accompaniment of triplets. This contrast of rhythm creates a sense of urgency and expectation throughout the episode, driving the piece to its fortissimo climax. Lingering on a dominant pedal, Chopin creates a remarkably smooth transition into a reprise of the opening theme, this time without its introductory passage. Joseph DuBose
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