Hyperion Records

Four Impromptus, D899 Op 90
composer
1827

Recordings
'Schubert: Impromptus & 'Wanderer' Fantasy' (APR5515)
Schubert: Impromptus & 'Wanderer' Fantasy
APR5515  Download only  
'Schubert: Impromptus' (CDH88034)
Schubert: Impromptus
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDH88034  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service  
'Schubert: Impromptus & other piano music' (CDA67091/2)
Schubert: Impromptus & other piano music
Buy by post £27.98 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA67091/2  2CDs Archive Service  
'Eileen Joyce – The complete Parlophone & Columbia solo recordings' (APR7502)
Eileen Joyce – The complete Parlophone & Columbia solo recordings
APR7502  Download only  
'A Matthay Miscellany – Rare and unissued recordings by Tobias Matthay and his pupils' (APR6014)
A Matthay Miscellany – Rare and unissued recordings by Tobias Matthay and his pupils
APR6014  for the price of 1 — Download only  
'Harold Bauer – The complete recordings' (APR7302)
Harold Bauer – The complete recordings
APR7302  Download only  
'Nikolai Demidenko live at Wigmore Hall' (CDD22024)
Nikolai Demidenko live at Wigmore Hall
Buy by post £10.50 CDD22024  2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)  
'Sviatoslav Richter – Schubert Sonatas' (APR5669)
Sviatoslav Richter – Schubert Sonatas
APR5669  Download only  
Details
No 1 in C minor: Allegro molto moderato
Track 1 on CDH88034 [8'57] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service
Track 8 on CDA67091/2 CD1 [7'58] 2CDs Archive Service
Track 1 on APR5515 [8'19] Download only
No 2 in E flat major: Allegro
Track 2 on CDH88034 [4'19] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service
Track 9 on CDA67091/2 CD1 [4'28] 2CDs Archive Service
Track 9 on APR5669 [3'55] Download only
Track 10 on APR7502 CD1 [4'09] Download only
Track 2 on APR5515 [4'12] Download only
No 3 in G flat major: Andante
Track 3 on CDH88034 [5'40] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service
Track 10 on CDA67091/2 CD1 [5'53] 2CDs Archive Service
Track 3 on APR5515 [4'59] Download only
No 4 in A flat major: Allegretto
Track 4 on CDH88034 [7'30] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service
Track 12 on CDD22024 CD2 [5'43] 2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)
Track 11 on CDA67091/2 CD1 [6'06] 2CDs Archive Service
Track 1 on APR7302 CD1 [4'01] Download only
Track 11 on APR7502 CD1 [7'34] Download only
Track 9 on APR6014 CD1 [5'50] for the price of 1 — Download only
Track 4 on APR5515 [7'29] Download only

Four Impromptus, D899 Op 90
EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
From 1827 are Schubert’s two sets of Impromptus, the first of them composed between the two halves of Winterreise. The title ‘Impromptu’ was not initially Schubert’s own: it was the Viennese publisher Tobias Haslinger who labelled the first two pieces from D899 as such when he issued them in December 1827. (The remaining pair of pieces from this set did not appear for a further thirty years, when Haslinger’s son Carl published them, transposing No 3 from G flat major into the less ‘awkward’ key of G major – a gross misrepresentation which remained in widespread use for more than a hundred years.) Haslinger may perhaps have been prompted by the Impromptus of the Bohemian composer Jan Václav Vorísek which had become popular in the early 1820s. One of Vorísek’s Impromptus – an individually-published piece in B flat major – is in a rapid constant motion not dissimilar to that of Schubert’s second Impromptu. Schubert almost certainly knew Vorísek’s Impromptus, and was happy enough to use the same title when he composed his second set, which he offered to Schott & Co in February 1828, as ‘Four Impromptus which can appear singly or all four together’. Once again, however, there was a delay in publication, and this second set did not appear in print until 1839, when Anton Diabelli issued it with a dedication to Liszt.

The first of the D899 Impromptus has the breadth of a Schubertian sonata movement, though it is not in fact in sonata form. The entire piece grows out of the unaccompanied march-like melody with which it begins. The stark march rhythm eventually gives way to a new version of the same theme over a smoothly rippling accompaniment; and by a stroke of genius Schubert expands the tiny turn-like closing phrase of this section into a floating melody, before getting down to the business of developing the main subject in earnest.

The second Impromptu, in E flat major, contrasts its rapidly flowing outer sections with an explosive middle section in the key of B minor. The coda juxtaposes the same two tonalities in an attempt to reconcile them; but since it is dominated throughout by the material of the dramatic middle section, Schubert takes the bold and highly unorthodox step of allowing the piece to come to a violent close in the minor. The effect was not lost on Brahms, whose last piano piece, the Rhapsody, Op 119 No 4, in the same key of E flat major, also reaches a despairing conclusion in the minor.

Carl Haslinger’s insensitivity in transposing the third Impromptu up a semitone into G major is thrown into greater relief when Nos 2 and 3 are played, as they should be, in succession: G flat is the relative major of E flat minor, the key in which the preceding piece comes to rest, and this song without words can thus be heard, at least in part, as a resolution of that uneasy conclusion.

While the second Impromptu had progressed from the airy major to the dark minor, the final piece of the set undergoes the reverse process. It takes a full thirty bars before its rippling minor-mode beginning is transformed into the major; and a further sixteen before the music’s latent melody at last emerges in the left hand. As for the trio section, with its pulsating accompaniment, it consists of a single long-spun theme of aching expressiveness.

from notes by Misha Donat © 1996

Track-specific metadata
Click track numbers opposite to select

Details for CDD22024 disc 2 track 12
No 4 in A flat major: Allegretto
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-93-78212
Duration
5'43
Recording date
1 June 1993
Recording venue
Wigmore Hall, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Ates Orga
Recording engineer
Ken Blair
Hyperion usage
  1. Nikolai Demidenko live at Wigmore Hall (CDA66781/2)
    Disc 2 Track 12
    Release date: October 1993
    Deletion date: October 1998
    2CDs Superseded by CDD22024
  2. Nikolai Demidenko live at Wigmore Hall (CDD22024)
    Disc 2 Track 12
    Release date: October 1998
    2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)
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