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Composed: 1839

About this Piece

Chopin composed four compositions that are called Impromptus, the first was the Fantaisie-impromptu of 1835, a piece that became widely known several years back for having yielded the hit tune “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows”; the F-sharp-major Impromptu was the third. Composed in 1839, it is a more substantial work than its delightful but lightweight predecessor in A-flat. Substantial but also enigmatic, in having a nocturnal main theme, sung in single notes in the right hand after a six-measure preface in the left hand that sighs gently, and then a lengthy episode that is a jolting contrast to the opening lyricism. Beginning softly with a dotted figure in single notes in the left hand and the right hand sounding a military motif, the section grows in stark intensity as the left-hand single notes become leaping octaves and the dynamic increases to a very loud level. The effect is frightening in its intensity, but when its strength is spent, the main theme returns (in F major) to be exquisitely embellished and enlivened by flowing triplets in the accompaniment. Toward the end, Chopin changes gears again, this time to create a small etude as the right hand spews fountains of very fast notes across the keyboard. When this effusive activity stops, there is a simple, almost prayer-like chorale for eight measures, and then, as if recalling the battle section, the piece ends with two very loud chords. —Orrin Howard