The Difficulty of Fantaisie Impromptu | (Op.66) by Frederick ChopinJune 8, 2021
The difficulty of Fantaisie Impromptu
Although Chopin composed this famous work in 1834, it was not published during his lifetime. Much speculation surrounds the reasons behind this, but perhaps the most likely, if least interesting, is simply because Chopin saw it as the property of Madame la Baronne d'Este who commissioned it.
Another twist in the “legend” is that it was only in 1960 that pianist Artur Rubenstein discovered a manuscript of the work in an album owned by the famous Baroness.
The manuscript featured Chopin's handwriting but contained notable differences from the version published by Chopin's executor, Julian Fontana. These differences are significant to the point that, for me, they add to the already substantial challenges that this work presents, as well as a closer indication of Chopin's intentions.
Fontana was a pianist, composer, but made his contribution to musical history through his devotion to work as assistant to Chopin. Fortunately for us, Fontana also published, with the full blessing of Chopin's surviving relatives, the collection of works now attributed to opus numbers 66 to 73 that brought great pleasure to pianists and audiences around the world.
Is this work one of the most difficult that the master composed? The answer from a significant number of pianists seems to be no. Chopin composed extensively for the piano and although the Fantaisie-Impromptu presents a series of challenges, not among the most difficult in Chopin's work.
Looking back a few years, I seem to remember Fantaisie-Impromptu not be an option on the Associated Board of The Royal Schools of Music Piano at Grade VIII, not even at the Diploma level. It is not a piece to be performed by a beginning student, although a confident and diligent intermediate musician could deliver a credible performance of it at any given time.
THE Fantaisie-Impromptu it is formed in a familiar ABA structure that Chopin has explored in many of his piano works. The 'A' sections are the technically challenging parts with a fiery time stamp of 'Allegro agitato' and a time signature 'Alla soon' . The key is C# minor for the outer sections with the slower center section placed in the tonic major (D flat major). This 'B' section takes on the lyrical and calm sense of the stormy feeling that Chopin handles so well. It offers a momentary respite from the occupation of the 'A' sections, highlighting Chopin's unfailing facility for melodic invention and beautiful harmonic color.
Let's take a closer look at the Fantaisie-Impromptu to analyze in more detail what are the challenges identified in the piece. We already know that Chopin's timing is in itself a challenge, but given the slow, focused practice, piece speed can be achieved as soon as the fingers can confidently find their way.
The next technical issue that is mentioned and that actually focuses a lot of attention on many different web pages is the pace of the opening section. What's happening throughout the opening section is a triple rhythm that traces the harmony and provides a momentum rhythmic in the left hand, while in the right hand semicircles dominate the musical landscape. This essentially means playing groups of three notes with one hand and groups of four notes with the other.
The danger is that the left hand may accelerate to try to match the right hand, or the triplets become irregular against the movement of the sixteenth notes in the right hand. Another hurdle is that the right hand can slow down to even out the triplets, especially when later in the 'A' section Chopin marks the second sixteenth with an accent, pushing the rhythmic feel even further away from the base.
What is suggested by some is the diligent, careful and meticulous learning of each hand separately. In the first stages of boarding at Fantaisie-Impromptu, this makes a lot of sense, and attention can also be drawn to avoid over-marking and blurring of harmonic changes and melodic phrases.
An interesting change between editions of this composition is in the 'Coda' passage. In the Rubenstein version, the triple eighth notes continue, while in other editions the triples are replaced by regular eighth notes. This just means that the technical considerations of the opening are present right through to the end if you choose to play from the Rubenstein version of Fantaisie-Impromptu. (By the way, this is where the current 'Urtext' editions are based).
The good news is that despite the play's vivacity and polyrhythmic complexities, Chopin knew exactly what pianists were capable of playing. Yes, he was a pianist who had immense gifts when it came to playing the piano, but the way in which he composed this piece, it surrenders very easily to the fingers. This is not to discount the fact that you have yet to learn the notes and work the best fingerings for the piece, but that once this process has been undertaken, the music has the potential to flow smoothly.
In the center section, section 'B' criticism is often leveled with pianists who 'overly sentimentalize' the music, making it as unpleasant as a chocolate cake heaped with extra sugar. Careful attention must be paid to melodic clarity, dynamic sensitivity, thoughtful pedaling, and hand balance. While it is understandable that this is the 'easiest' section of 'Fantaisie-Impromptu' and therefore requires less work, this would be a big omission.
what about the Fantaisie-Impromptu by Chopin is a work that he himself did not value very much and did not intend to publish. Strange then that this has become one of his most executed pieces. To some extent, this can be explained by the fact that, despite not being one of their most difficult pieces, it results in a very impressive display and can be mastered in a relatively short time.
I read many comments from pianists who express their dislike of the piece after playing it a few times, some feel it lacks the substance and depth of others. Chopin Piano Pieces. This seems a bit harsh to me, but everyone's opinion.
This article was translated from the original in English by Copywriting Artes & contextos
The original article How Hard is it to Improvise Fantaisie | (Op.66) by Frederick Chopin, was published @ CMUSE - Classical
The original article How Hard is it to Improvise Fantaisie | (Op.66) by Frederick Chopin, appeared first @ CMUSE - Classical
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