Schubert, Impromptu op. 142 no. 2

This weekend the mail brought a CD of Youri Egorov, a small gift from the Young Pianist Foundation. It featured Youri Egorov, playing one of Schubert’s sonatas and his six moment musicaux. Very beautiful music, performed by a pianist with a tragic fate – but maybe later more about that. It triggered me to look at the score of these moment musicaux, and while doing that, I also had a look at his impromptus (often published in the same score and played together). And then I encountered the impromptu in A flat major, that I didn’t play or listen to for a long time.

Impromptus are relatively short pieces meant as improvisations, to be played “off hand”. But such a description would miss the fact that these pieces are little jewels, which should be cherished carefully. The pieces are, together with the moment musicaux, “the example for all romantic composers of intimate piano pieces after him” (Grout & Palisca).

Schubert composed the pieces in 1827; he turned 30 that year. He had already written some of his major works in 1815, when he was only 18 years old! Beethoven had only just passed away, in 1825, and had significantly influenced Schubert’s music. Tragically, Schubert would die shortly after him, in 1828, at the age of only 31.

The recording displayed here is in the small hall of the Concertgebouw, a nice intimate setting for a piece like this. As you might have noticed, the impromptu is in ABA form:

  • [0:00-3:16] A: The theme is played, pianissimo, and repeated one octave higher (played twice) Then a short section, played forte, followed by a repetition of the theme, but ending in a somewhat more somber mood. This is also played twice.
  • [3:16-5:32] The B section involves a Trio. The key shifts first from A flat major to D flat major. The right-hand side plays broken chords, but at the same time a soft singing melody is discernible. After repeat, the trio continues in D flat minor [4:33], making the melody more dramatic, rising to a climax, and descending back to the D flat major.
  • [5:33] Back to the original theme A. The entire first section is repeated, and ends only slightly different than the first time.

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