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Schubert: Impromptu Op. 142 No. 4 in F Minor

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Franz Schubert - Impromptus :
Impromptu, Op. 142 No. 4
Impromptu Op. 142 No. 4  in F Minor by Schubert piano sheet music
Key: F Minor Year: 1827
Level: 8+ Period: Early Romantic
piano sheet music Piano score: PS Urtext (728 kB)
piano sheet music Piano score: Scanned score (2947 kB)

This piece is fresh and invigorating in its character and affords the player an opportunity to display all his powers in "tone-coloring" by means of the use of the various forms of touch. It must be understood that these different forms of touch merge into one another; and the pupil must learn how to change suddenly from one to the other. The trio of this piece is extremely delicate and ethereal and affords a fine contrast to the principal theme.


This piece starts out with an eight-measure period which is immediately repeated an octave higher. In measure 17, a phrase group begins which assumes a period form from measures 17 to 24, and which is immediately repeated an octave higher and extended to measure 36. This entire part is then repeated and in measure 37 another extension of the period in the shape of running passages occurs, leading back into the old motive of the piece, the first period of which is repeated exactly, and then the second repetition is taken up, but this time is extended by much free matter built up on motives from the original period, extending to measure 86. Up to this point we have large three-part song form. With measure 87, a new movement begins which is marked piu mosso. Here we have period structure from measure 87 to measure 94, inclusive. Then this period is repeated but transformed into the tonic minor and extends to measure 102 inclusive; both periods are then repeated with some changes. With measure 121 a new motive is introduced which is developed at very great length. It will be sufficient here to notice how the music falls into phrase-groups, usually of four measures each, and thus consider the entire part as a development section in which a four-measure phrase is repeated in different keys, down to measure 184. Then, comes another development section which is founded on the motives from the theme beginning in measure 87, and consists largely of running work, scale-passages. This extends to measure 223, when the motive first introduced in measure 121 re­-appears through another series of transformations.

At measure 263 the second motive of this part again occurs, and, in connection with the other motive of this part receives another long extension. This part, therefore, can scarcely be said to be in closed song form, and must be regarded in the nature of thematic work. With measure 324, the motive of the original theme of the piece is again taken up and after twelve measures of introduction, the original theme of the piece begins again at measure 336. At measure 420 the coda begins and continues to the end of the piece.


This piece is an Impromptu. An "lmpromptu" is a composition which is supposed to be conceived off hand or extemporized for the occasion, played or written at the moment without previous study or preparation, and naturally hearing mostly the form of a fantasia. Owing to Schubert's great facility, this form of composition afforded him a very agreeable field for the exhibition of his art. It is said of Schubert that be composed incessantly. His manuscripts show the wonderful readiness with which he composed; page after page was written out as one would write a letter and no alterations or changes made afterward, thus greatly differing from the practice of other composers, especially Beethoven, who sometimes rewrote the original idea as often as a dozen times until it assumed a form that satisfied him. One must not think, however, that Schubert never changed his ideas from their original form, because cases can be cited in which he did do this. This piece is a good example of his style of spinning out his idea. While we would not go so far as to say this piece is too long, it must be acknowledged that it is somewhat diffuse, and probably the material could have been condensed into a somewhat smaller number of measures, and still have retained all of its charm. But we must accept it as we find it and be grateful that such beautiful music has come into the world.


The first movement, which is marked allegro scherzando, must be played lightly and gracefully, but with pronounced accents at certain points. These accents seem to give a spring, a dash to the music, and result from the fact that the measures are short, and the effect of each measure, is to a certain extent, that of a triplet. The contrast between soft and loud should be most carefully observed. For instance, measures 17 and 18 are played loudly; measures 19 and 20 softly and expressively at the same time. Measure 21 louder again, and so on. Beginning with measure 87 a great deal of finger fluency will be required. The left-hand part in connection with the running passages of the right hand will be found to produce a delightful effect if great attention is paid to the rhythmic figures of each part. The runs are to be very legato and the marks of expression of the left-hand part carefully observed. In passages like that beginning with measure 131 in addition to presenting the groups as they are written, the student should be sure that the connection of the four measures, such for instance as measures 131, 132, 133 and 134, is carefully shown. This measure connection will be obtained by making a slight crescendo through the first three measures and giving the fourth measure a decrescendo. This will be in conformity with the composer's marks which accent the first part of the measure, although this kind of expression should not be observed all the way t-h rough because it would become monotonous. We have said enough to enable the student by careful attention to the technical details of this piece to render it with all the effect of which it is capable.
--Emil Sauer

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