COMPOSITIONS compositions

Impromptu in G flat major, incypit

Genre: Impromptu

Key: G-flat major

Opus/WN: Op. 51

Creation date: 1842

Acc. to Paderewski: IV/3

Acc. to Turło: 45

Instruments: piano

Composition dedicated to:

hr. Jeanne Batthyany-Estherhazy


The third Impromptu carries within it something of the atmosphere of Chopin’s salon – an exceptional salon, not conventional and snobbish, but as poetic as it is elegant, transporting its denizens into another dimension.

The Impromptu in G flat major offers music that is suffused with light and seemingly exempt from undue gravity. It was composed to the tripartite (reprise) design that was established for this genre. In the outermost parts, it is almost entirely given over to lively melody that resembles figuration. In the middle section, it is filled with the piano’s calm song.

So the opening theme is spun out like an arabesque, in an endless, uniform, long-breathed motion. A melody of remarkable subtlety gradually frees itself from the short-lived dissonance of changing notes, which are seemingly engendered by the brisk movement of the pianist’s hands, and becomes increasingly distinct (bars 1–8(9)). On its further appearances, bolstered by a duet of thirds and sixths, it reveals its harmoniousness to the full (bars 11–14). The singular beauty of the cantilena is assigned to the middle section of the Impromptu. A melody that flows along at a moderate tempo (sostenuto) and in a darkened key (E flat minor) speaks with a voice of celloesque timbre (bars (48)49–56(57)).

André Gide, who expressed his wonderment at the peculiar beauty of Chopin’s impromptus in his Notes on Chopin, drew attention to one characteristic that is particularly salient in this genre. He wrote, getting right to the heart of the matter, ‘What is most exquisite and most individual in Chopin’s art, wherein it differs most wonderfully from all others, I see in just that non-interruption of the phrase; the insensible, the imperceptible gliding from one melodic proposition to another, which leaves or gives to a number of his compositions the fluid appearance of streams.’[i]

[i] André Gide, Notes on Chopin, tr. Bernard Frechtman (New York, 1949), 41.

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


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Impromptu in G flat major, Op. 51
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