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Chopin: Fantaisie-Impromptu Op. 66 in C-sharp Minor

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Frédéric Chopin - Impromptus :
Fantaisie-Impromptu, Op. 66
Fantaisie-Impromptu Op. 66  in C-sharp Minor by Chopin piano sheet music
Key: C-sharp Minor Year: 1834
Level: 8+ Period: Early Romantic
piano sheet music Piano score: PS Urtext (146 kB)
piano sheet music Piano score: Scanned score (1765 kB)

Sweeping brilliance, saved from the fire

Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu in c sharp minor is a technically difficult but also very fun piece to play, and it's easy to see why it's among Chopin's most famous and popular works. It is interesting to note that the middle section was used in the song I'm Always Chasing Rainbows, which was a very popular song in 1918.

Fantasie Impromptu was composed around 1834 but published only after the composer’s death, contrary to his express wish that all unpublished works and sketches should be burned. The version that is heard most often was prepared from Chopin’s sketches by his friend Julian Fontana.

It is a relatively short piece in ABA form. The A section has a sweeping melody of sixteenth notes running up and down the keyboard, accompanied by triplet arpeggios in the left hand. It's very fast and almost a little chaotic, while the softer middle section with its wonderful cantilena provides a good overall balance to the piece. The coda begins passionately, but calms down little by little, reintroducing the theme from the middle section in the left hand. The work ends peacefully.

The various versions of Fantaisie-Impromptu

It seems odd that the so called Fantaisie-Impromptu, one of Chopin’s most famous pieces, was not published during the composer’s lifetime, although it was composed as early as 1834-1835, some fifteen years before his death. Many would agree that it is a significant work. Why did Chopin not want it to be published? Some have pointed to the similarities between the main theme and that of Moscheles’ Impromptu in E flat Op.89 - perhaps Chopin just didn’t want to be accused of plagiarism?

Another view was held by Arthur Rubinstein, who in 1962 published a new edition of the piece, based on an autograph which he had sensationally found. Rubinstein’s theory was that Chopin had sold the work to its dedicatee Baroness d’Este, and therefore was not free to publish it.

Until Rubinstein found the autograph, Fantaisie-Impromptu was known only in the form of Julian Fontana’s 1855 edition. Fontana published a number of the composer’s posthumous works in 1855 and 1859, providing them with opus numbers from 66 to 72. This numbering has been abandoned, because it gives the misleading impression that these works were composed in Chopin’s later years. In many cases the opposite is true: ‘Fantaisie-Impromptu’, still sometimes referred to as op. 66, was composed before any of the other Impromptus (Opp. 29, 56 and 51).

Fontana deserves credit for passing on Chopin’s posthumous works, but he didn’t always treat his sources with due respect. Although the autograph on which Fontana based his edition of ‘Fantaisie-Impromptu’ has been lost, there are handwritten copies of this earlier version of the piece, which make it clear that Fontana made significant alterations and additions to the composer’s text. The title Fantaisie-Impromptu was also invented by Fontana.

Many of the most important differences between the autograph found by Rubinstein and Fontana’s edition are found in the accompaniment. Although the chords have not been altered, the distribution of notes in the left hand is different in the autograph throughout the fast section. For example, in measures 5 and 6 of the autograph, the thumb of the left hand alternates between e’ and g sharp’, which adds richness to the sound but of course also demands a more flexible wrist than in the other versions. Another crucial difference right at the beginning between Fontana’s edition and the handwritten versions is that Fontana only writes sforzando on the first octave and piano in measure 5, while Chopin in both his versions has forte at the start and a diminuendo to measure 3, with a forzato on the first sextuplet note in the autograph. Note how Chopin has indicated the use of both hands for the octaves by the use of rests and stem directions.

Fontana also has several other questionable dynamic indications. In measure 13 he writes a forte, not found in any of the other versions and not very effective since it interrupts the long gradual buildup of intensity achieved if one continues at a moderate dynamic level here. The accents on the thumb in measures 13-16 and on the little finger in measures 17-21 also seem to be the result of Fontana’s misguided efforts to try to add variation to Chopin’s notation.

In measure 24 Fontana has moved the sharp sign on the left hand B to the third quarter note, thereby achieving a chromatic bass line A-A sharp-B-B sharp, again trying to add variation which Chopin surely not intended.

There are significant differences between Chopin’s two versions where the fast section culminates. On the first beats of measures 33-35 in the autograph, the right hand stubbornly returns to e’’, instead of alternating with g sharp’’ as in the earlier version, resulting in an even more intense feeling of hurried desperation. And the second left hand chord in measure 35 now arrives on the second quarter note instead of on the third, also increasing the sense of accelerated, overwhelming emotion.

In the slow section, Chopin made a number of substantial changes when writing down the final version. The rising eighth-notes of the main theme (measure 43) are varied from measure 55, where the first one becomes dotted. This seems to give the entire section a more improvisatory, rubato feel. Another rhythmic change is in measures 60 and 72, where the right hand c’’’ is moved from the second to the third quarter note. On the third quarter note of measures 59 and 71, the autograph introduces a d flat minor chord in the accompaniment.

Also note the subtle but very characteristic improvement that Chopin made in measure 49, where the left hand thumb plays f’ and e flat’ on the 10th and 12th sextuplet notes, echoing the f’’ and e flat’’ of the right hand.

Finally, Chopin altered the beginning of the coda, replacing the eighth notes of the left hand from measure 119 with triplets. He also slightly simplified measures 123-126, making it easier to achieve the requested diminuendo and accelerando.

So, all in all there are three versions of this piece to take into account. First, the Fontana edition, in which form Fantaisie-Impromptu presented itself to the world. Second, the more authentic early version of the piece, revealed by two handwritten copies by Auguste Franchomme (cellist, composer and close friend of Chopin´s) and reproduced in several modern Urtext editions. Third, the ‘Rubinstein version’, which we would like to encourage all Chopin players to study and perform. It may not be as well known as Fontana’s version, but it is certainly more authentic, complete and definitive. All modern Urtext editions, including the Polish National Chopin Edition, base their editions on Rubinstein’s find.

Members who like this piece have also downloaded:

Practice & Performance Tips:
The cross-rhythms (sixteenth-notes against triplets) and the incredibly fast right hand figurations in the first section of this piece may seem daunting, and this is certainly not a piece for the beginner or even intermediate player. However, the Fantaise-Impromptu is not one of Chopin's most difficult pieces. The piano writing makes amazing use of very natural movements, and there is no great awkwardness for anyone with a normal-sized hand. As for the coordination problem, it also more or less solves itself if each hand is mastered separately and the pianist keeps focusing on a flowing alla breve pulse.

Note that the Largo marking only applies to measures 41 and 42; the rest of the middle section is marked Moderato cantabile, which should mean a rather flowing tempo. Of course this lyrical and reflective section needs some time and flexibility, but take care to avoid a... Sign up for a Gold membership to read the practice tips.

Posts in the piano forum about this piece by :

xx chopin's fantasie impromptu
April 06, 2003, 08:56:06 AM by BoliverAllmon

I have a question on the bass clef on I believe the 5 measure. There is a little half note that is tied to another little quarter note. My question is this. What does this little note mean? If I am suppose to hold that note out, what do I do if my fingers are wide enough? (I have already tried).

Thanks, Boliver Allmon

xx Fantasie Impromptu
July 07, 2003, 03:54:53 AM by cartman

After 2 mounths i finally made it!
I'm proud to announce that I can actually play Fantasie-Impromptu Opus. 66.

I was wandering...
Here's a recording of my performance... I Know I really suck but I was wandering if you could give me some help or just your opinion about my work. Thank you.
ps. my piano really sucks as well as the recording (and as well as me), sorry  

xx practising Fantaisie-impromptu by chopin
July 24, 2003, 07:51:36 AM by piani0player

  im going to learn this piece for my recital .what is the best way to learn this piece ,espeically the cross rhythm, how do you play it together both hands?
which is the hardest part for this piece?

thank you

xx fantasy impromtu by chopin
July 24, 2003, 07:53:35 AM by piani0player

  im going to learn this piece for my recital .what is the best way to learn this piece ,espeically the cross rhythm, how do you play it together both hands?
which is the hardest part for this piece?

thank you  

xx memorizing fantasy impromtu
August 07, 2003, 11:18:22 AM by piani0player

hi everyone ,
      :(i just learn all the notes of the fantasy impromtu by chopin last night and im planning to memorize it separately  first before i play hands together but there are no relationship between the fast passage notes on the right hand ,i find it hard to memorize it.the left hand may be easier ,i will try it tonight.so how do you memorize the whole piece?any tip?

thank you very much

xx The Fantaisie-Impromptu - Is it really that hard?
January 14, 2004, 07:10:39 AM by chopiabin

After looking at this piece, the only thing that seems difficult about it is the three vs. four rhythm, which could be learned relatively quickly with some slow practice. It also seems a bit overrated to me. Yes it is pretty, but Chopin wrote a million things more beautiful; in fact he didn't even like this piece - that's why it was published after his death. I know I am going to get yelled at (or posted at Grin) for this topic, but it just seems that everyone is playing it and I don't know why.

Chop ( the right hand running passage that starts on a B and ends on an A ,I think, is a direct quote from Beethoven's Moonlight sonata 3rd mvmnt.)

xx Fantaisie-Impromptu
February 24, 2004, 10:47:10 PM by onemanband

I am currutly working on this well-known piece. I felt so complicated when I was trying to match both hands with playing evenly. Is there any good way to practise this piece?

The most amazing thing is after hours of practice, my fingers shrinked and they looked much shorter and stonger than before. Can anyone explain that?

xx Fantaisie Impromptu
March 16, 2004, 12:21:24 AM by Loor

I have learned the fantaisie impromptu a few months ago..but i still have a lot of troubles with the last 2 pages>Sad..it's especialy my right hand.. it just seems that i can't control it..i haven't got enough balance in my right hand..mayb it's fatigue of the precede pages i dunno..is there anyone who has the same problem? Or someone else who have some tips on how i can improve my technique so i can control my right hand a lot better? thnx!!i think these 2 pages are the hardest part of the whole piece.  btw..sorry for my bad english  Roll Eyes

xx Help on fantasia impromptu by chaplin
April 13, 2004, 05:21:35 AM by johnjwong

Hi guys, I need help for the song fantasia impromptu by chaplin.  I can play the song but if i play the song fast as the song is supposed to be fast, my hand gets tire and i just can't play anymore.... there is so much stress no my right hand arm and my arm feels like its burning.... My hand gets tired just before the part when there is the decending chromatic scale.. any tips?

xx Timing for HT - Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu
May 24, 2004, 02:58:14 AM by Drillyourtechnique

Practicing HA with the Fan Imp is not too difficult with the metronome.  But when I put both hands together, everything pretty much goes in flames and I can’t get past the first 10 bars.  Btw speaking of Flames, GO FLAMES GO! hockey fans.
Back to the issue.  I’ve tried everything from putting on the metronome to count the RH beats while trying to slap the LH on a single note to get the feel of the RH doing 16ths and the LH doing triplet eights.  It’s obvious when the two hands hit their notes at the same time is at each beat, 1 2 3 4. But after that I can’t seem to nail the rhythm.
I tried to slow down the piece by copying it to Finale notepad and playing at a tempo of say 20.  
But what I’ve noticed is that there’s five 16th notes (assume the 16th rest is a 16th note for simplicity sake) to be squished with 4 triplet eights.  
So beat 1 should normally* have both hands playing, then 3 16ths with 2 eights in between, then on the 5th 16th note, which is beat 2, both hands play together.  
My basic problem is letting my left side of the brain not mix up with the rhythm of the right side of the brain, so my LH doesn’t start to copy the RH’s 16th Rhythm.
Any suggestions to cure this? (Bernhard help!)

xx should i start the fantasie impromptu?
August 21, 2004, 03:53:00 AM by breadboy

I'm just about to finish up Fur Elise after playing for just under 3 months with a teacher and I was wondering, is the Fantasie Impromptu something I could shoot for next or should I wait a few months?

God bless

xx It's a joke or what??(fantaisie-impromptu record)
August 29, 2004, 07:51:37 AM by thierry13


Have a look to this fantaisie-impromptu recording...SERIOUSLY!! How can someone record THIS!! I'm sure it is a joke made by the pianist... but if it is not...well... listen to it...

xx Rhythms... Need help on Fantasy-impromptu... and some easier pieces
December 03, 2004, 04:52:06 PM by Lilo

Hi everybody,

I'd like to know what's your "counting method", on pieces such as Chopin's Fantasy-impromptu, nouvelle etude N°1, and Debussy's first arabesque -well, pieces that use "contrary rythms" (or counter rhythms ? I don't know how this is called).
Does anyone know how to count these rhythms ?

xx Fingering question - Fantaisie Impromptu
January 12, 2005, 03:36:07 AM by goalevan

measure 14 when the left hand plays B F# A B A F# - E B E G# E B - A

I have 5 3 2 1 2 3 - 5 3 2 1 2 4 - 5 , but the E B E G# E B feels sort of awkward and I was thinking there might be a better way to do it. Or is there a special movement that I'm missing?

any help would be appreciated ! !

lamp Fantasie Impromtu, am I ready
March 19, 2005, 06:58:32 PM by Mecarath

Well, let me just tell you my musical backround to help out your opinion. I only been playing for two years, yet I play 4-6 hours, four days a week..sometimes a "break" here and there. I started wanting to learn from hearing the song on the radio fur-elise and read a book  PIANO FOR DUMMIES. My repertoire is:
  Moonlight sonata
  Sonata in C Major K. 545
  Turkish Rondo


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