The six Impromptus
(1883–1913) are not only true to their title but traverse Fauré’s creative life. No 1, ornate and virtuosic with its breathless flight of short and long phrases and its central elaboration, prompted Cortot (most fanciful and acute of commentators) to speak of ‘sunlit water’ and a ‘stylized coquetry and regret’. No 2, a whirling tarantella, is less richly decorated, more texturally transparent, while No 3 is among Fauré’s most idyllic creations, its principle idea dipping and soaring above a gyrating, moto perpetuo accompaniment, its central idea ‘like an avenue of fans folding and unfolding’. The change from such liberating caprice in Nos 4 and 5 is sharp indeed. In No 4 the sense of ideas allowed to blossom and expand, as if across some magical trellis, is subdued into an attenuated and feverish utterance. Dedicated to Marguerite Long (one of Fauré’s few early champions) it seethes with an unrest fully confirmed in No 5 with its spin of whole tone scales, its defiant rather than tentative break with convention. Impromptu No 6 is a transcription of a work for harp, its original glitter arguably acquiring greater strength and colour in its new setting, its central meno mosso retaining a supple and authentic beauty.
from notes by Bryce Morrison © 1995