Frédéric Chopin

Fantaisie Impromptu

Explained using the 5-4-3-2-1 Method

Duration: About 6 Minutes
Genre: Character Piece
Time of Creation: 1833–34
World Premiere: Unknown (First Published Posthumously in 1855)

Table of Contents

Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu in 5 Sentences

Frédéric Chopin himself was not particularly satisfied with his Fantaisie Impromptu; in fact, he did not want to publish it at all. It was not until six years after Chopin’s death that Julian Fontana, a close Chopin confidant, made a killing by publishing the piece. Stylistically, Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu is quite remarkable: the overall musical texture is very dense, and there is also the fact that two almost consistently different rhythmic levels are superimposed in the left and right hands (so-called “polyrhythmics”). Chopin combines pianistic virtuosity with lyrical lines in this piece (see the “Highlights” below).

Note: This work belongs to the Classical Music Top 100.

4 Highlights from Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu

Highlight 1: A part (fast)

Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu is laid out according to the “A-B-A-Coda” formal scheme. In the first A part, the fast tempo and dense sound are established. Chopin thus places the focus on virtuosity….

Highlight 2: B part (slow)

…while in the B section, the quiet lyricism is in the foreground. The dreamy cantilena that Chopin hints at here is a memorable contrast to the virtuosic A part:

Highlight 3: Resumption of the A part (fast)

Then the A part is taken up again, triggering a sense of formal unity. However, Chopin still has a surprise in reserve….

Highlight 4: Coda (combination part!)

…namely in the coda (that’s what an appended final part is called). Here Chopin brings together two elements from the previous music – so the coda is a combination part. We hear the melody from the B part (in the left hand) together with the dense, fast movement from the A part (in the right hand):

3 Questions and Answers about Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu

Question 1: What is an impromptu?

In an impromptu, a momentary emotional state is expressed musically. A specific form is not prescribed, but this does not mean that impromptus are “formless”. For example, the A-B-A form is very popular.

Question 2: Who were the models for Chopin's impromptus?

Frédéric Chopin took the piece name “impromptu” from Franz Schubert, who also wrote several piano impromptus. The Bohemian composer Ignaz Moscheles was also an important model.

Question 3: Is Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu also used in other contexts?

Yes. Chopin’s composition has been used frequently in movies and series, once even in Tom and Jerry.

2 Recommended Recordings of Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu

Recording 1: Daniil Trifonov (video production, 2017)

There is not much to say about Daniil Trifonov, apart from the fact that he is one of the most accomplished piano virtuosos of our time. Most notable is his poetic interpretation of the slow part of Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu. This video production also uses various recordings to tell a little story:

Recording 2: Anastasia Huppmann (live, 2016)

Another beautiful interpretation comes from Anastasia Huppmann, who plays Chopin’s composition very vividly. She is particularly good at bringing out the accents of the melody:

1 Quote about Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu

By confining himself exclusively to the realm of the piano, Chopin actuated one of the most valuable qualities of the composer: the correct recognition of the form in which he is called upon to excel.

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