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Chopin composed the Impromptu in A flat major in 1837 and published it the following year, dedicating it to one of his pupils, Lady Caroline de Lobau. The enchanting arabesque of the opening theme is followed by its complement, which wanders hesitantly and endlessly over the keyboard (bars (8)9–16). The middle section of the Impromptu, in the relative key of F minor, is filled with a piano song – sweeping and embellished, after the fashion of an improvised aria or nocturne (bars 43–54). Returning in the reprise is the arabesque of a melody spun out seemingly without end, though finally extinguished, backed by chords that are cast forth softly, mezzo voce. It is difficult to call this anything other than the music of confidences.

If this music does indeed bring us confidences, they would appear to be tender, not darkened by shadows. As Ferdynand Hoesick sees it, the A flat major Impromptu ‘has the brightness of sunlight playing in a fountain’s spray’. In Arthur Hedley’s opinion, it has ‘all the air of a carefree improvisation’, though ‘closer inspection of the first section reveals a skilful hand at work.’

The appearance of new works by Chopin was greeted with reviews that sought to outstrip one another in their admiration. There were exceptions, however, generally dictated by particular circumstances. The Impromptu in A flat major was met with an amusing anonymous review in a periodical issued by a rival publisher – La France musicale. ‘The best thing one can say about this work is that Chopin composed very beautiful mazurkas […] at the end of the fifth page, Mr Chopin is still seeking an idea… he ends at the bottom of the 9th page, [having failed to find one] by slapping down a dozen chords. Voilà l’Impromptu’.

Author: Mieczysław Tomaszewski
[Cykl audycji "Fryderyka Chopina Dzieła Wszystkie"]
Polish Radio, program II


 
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Kevin Kenner

Impromptu in A flat major, Op. 29
 
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