Fantaisie-Impromptu

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Main Theme of the Fantaisie-Impromptu

Frédéric Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-sharp minor, Op. posth. 66, is a solo piano composition. It was composed in 1834 and dedicated to Julian Fontana, who published the piece despite Chopin's request not to do so.[1] Despite negative comments, the Fantasie-Impromptu is one of Chopin's most frequently performed and popular compositions.[2]

History[edit]

The Fantasie Impromtpu was written in 1834 along with the Four Mazurkas (Op. 17), and the Grande valse brillante in E-flat major (Op. 18), but unlike these other works, Chopin never published the Fantasie Impromptu.[2] Instead, Jules Fontana published it, along with other waltzes Opp. 69 and 70.[3] It is unknown why Chopin did not publish the Fantasie-Impromptu; one possible answer was that he overlooked it.[4] Huneker, trying to guess why Chopin did not publish the Fantasie-Impromptu, calls parts of it "mawkish" and "without nobility"[5] Ernst Oster writes that a technical exploration would show why Chopin did not publish the work, and that exploration shows that the Fantasie-Impromptu and Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata ("Quasi una fantasia") are in fact related.[6]

Form[edit]

The Fantasie-Improptu draws many of its harmonic and tonal elements from Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, which is also in C-sharp minor. Two measures after the melody begins, an abrupt run up and down has exactly the same notes as the cadenza in movement 3 (Presto agitato) of that work. The climax on a six-four chord is similar in both pieces.[7] Also, the Fantaisie-Impromptu's middle part and the second movement of the Moonlight Sonata are in D-flat major. The first and third movements are in C-sharp minor.

For those reasons, and many others, Ernst Oster writes, "Chopin understood Beethoven to a degree that no one who has written on the C minor Sonata or the Fantaisie-Impromptu has ever understood him. ... The Fantaisie-Impromptu is perhaps the only instance where one genius discloses to us — if only by means of a composition of his own — what he actually hears in the work of another genius." [8]

The piece uses many cross-rhythms (the right hand plays sixteenth notes against the left hand playing triplets) and a ceaselessly moving note figuration and is in cut time (2/2). The opening tempo is marked allegro agitato. The tempo changes to largo and later moderato cantabile when the key changes to D-flat major, the enharmonic equivalent of the more obscure tonic major key of C-sharp major, that is, the parallel major of C-sharp minor.

The piece then changes to presto (although some versions of the score incorporate a coda, meaning that the original tempo of allegro agitato is repeated) where it continues in C-sharp minor as before. It concludes in an ambiguous fantasy-like ending, in a quiet and mysterious way, where the left hand replays the first few notes of the moderato section theme, while the right hand continues playing sixteenth notes (semiquavers). The piece resolves and gently ends on a C-sharp major rolled chord.

Legacy[edit]

Performed by Martha Goldstein on an 1851 Erard piano

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The melody of the Fantaisie-Impromptu's middle section was used in the popular song "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows". It was also heard in a Tom and Jerry cartoon Snowbody Loves Me and in the 1956 film Autumn Leaves. It is also heard in the Woody Woodpecker episode "Musical Moments from Chopin". The same music was also featured in the 2003 film Lost in Translation as a cellphone ringtone of Bob Harris, and in the 2013 film Jobs as played in a diner.

That theme was quoted in Variation 10 of Federico Mompou's Variations on a Theme of Chopin, which is otherwise based on Chopin's Prelude No. 7 in A major. It also plays a minor part in Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening, in which the main character Edna Pontellier has a strong emotional reaction to its performance. The novel was written in 1899, 65 years after the piece was composed. Kate Chopin was not related to Frédéric Chopin.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ IP Music Society. "Piano Recitals; Hubert Rutkowski". Ignacy Paderewski Music Society. Retrieved 7 December 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Oster, p. 189
  3. ^ Niecks, Fredrick, "A critical Commentary on the Pianoforte Works of Fredrick Chopin", The Monthly Musical Record 9 (1879) p. 179.
  4. ^ Niecks, p. 261
  5. ^ Huneker, James, Chopin, the Man and his Music, New York: Charles Scribner's 1901, p. 241
  6. ^ Oster, p. 190
  7. ^ Ernst Oster, "The Fantaisie–Impromptu: A Tribute to Beethoven", in Aspects of Schenkerian Analysis, David Beach, ed. Yale University Press, 1983, ISBN 0-300-02800-8
  8. ^ Oster, P. 207

External links[edit]