No 1 in F minor: Allegro moderato
No 2 in A flat major: Allegretto
No 3 in B flat major: Andante with variations
No 4 in F minor: Allegro scherzando
Schubert’s opening piece is on a broad scale and contains a wealth of inspired material. The jagged opening theme is followed by a passage of gently rippling semiquavers whose thematic outline eventually gives rise to a wonderful melody in repeated chords. There is also a contrasting episode involving much crossing of the hands. Despite the fact that it unfolds for the most part at the pianissimo level, Schubert clearly wanted this episode played with peculiar intensity: the marking of ‘appassionato’ for such intimate music is typical, and it is one that appears again in a similar context in the slow movement of the great E flat Piano Trio, D929, and the Notturno for piano trio, D897.
The second of the D935 Impromptus is similar in mood and form to the last of the Moments musicaux, in the same key of A flat, while the third is a famous set of variations on a theme Schubert borrowed from his incidental music to Rosamunde. Of the five variations, the third is in the minor, and in an atmosphere of barely suppressed agitation, while the fourth broadens the tonal horizons of the piece by moving into the warmth of G flat major. The final variation is a delicate display piece, but Schubert characteristically brings the proceedings to an end with a coda that is at once slower and more simple than the original theme itself.
There is a decidedly Hungarian flavour to the last Impromptu, not only in its strong off-beat accents, but also in the improvisatory flourishes which seem to conjure up the sound of the cimbalom. The middle section, too, is not without its rushing scales, and there is a coda in which the music gathers pace, eventually coming to an end with a scale sweeping down over the entire compass of the keyboard.
from notes by Misha Donat © 1996