COMPOSITIONS compositions


The second Impromptu, in F sharp major, was not written until two years after the first – the Impromptu in A flat major. Chopin worked on it at Nohant, following his return from Majorca, whilst gradually regaining his health. It differs markedly from the first Impromptu in terms of both form and character. Here, the middle section is filled with darkness and shade, and the melodic arabesque that distinguishes the impromptu genre does not appear straight away.

This work comprises two moments that seem incompatible, but actually integrate wonderfully well. It combines several types and genres: impromptu, nocturne, ballade and etude. The lack of a distinct form has even led observers to infer some hidden (literary) ‘plot’.

After a few bars of ‘mood-setting’, the narrative begins with a simple melody, which slowly and thoughtfully spins out a musical tale (bars 7–19). Yet that thread breaks off. First, a chorale can be heard – soft, focussed, somewhat mysterious (bars 35–38). It is followed by unexpected heroic tones, which seem to be summoned from afar, before suddenly growing in strength (bars 47–52). An air of wonderment accompanies this notated improvisation till the very end. Further moments are arrived at via two bars of a peculiar modulation that hesitates over the path to be followed (bars 59–61).

‘The second Impromptu, which might be poor, I don’t know, as it’s too fresh. Yet it would be good if it were not too Orłowskian or Zimmermannian, or Karsko-Końskian, or Sowińskian, or swine-ian, or other-animalian [all allusions to composers of Parisian salon music], as it could, according to my reckoning, bring in at least 800 francs’.

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


The Real Chopin »

Kevin Kenner

Impromptu in F sharp major, Op. 36
Gallery »