Friday, October 3, 2008

Chopin - Fantaisie Impromptu

At the gathering of Singaporeans in Boulder last weekend, an interesting development occurred: I realized that all of us (alright, there were just about that 6-8 of us) are able to play one musical instrument or another, or have been in an orchestra or a band. So, after that oh-so-I-missed home-cooked Singaporean dinner (consisting of chicken rice (you heard it right), real spicy curry - not the American kinda curry at last, begedil, portuguese egg tart etc), we had a jamming session. That night, we only had the synthesizer and the drum set. It was really fun! I suggested that we should put up a concert sometime, somewhere, if anyone wants to hear us :)

One of the pieces that were playing again and again on that night, and since then has been haunting me is this beautiful piano score by Frederic Chopin of the Romantic period: Fantaisie Impromptu in C-sharp minor. Anyone who studies piano will remember the horror of playing this piece for the grade 8 practical examination - or at least I did. Frederic Chopin was born a Polish but emigrated to France following the suppression of the Polish November Uprising of 1830–31. He is widely regarded as the greatest Polish composer, and ranks as one of music's greatest tone poets.

The Fantasie Impromptu, Opus posthumous 66, is a solo piano composition and is one of his most well-known pieces. He uses many cross-rhythms (the right hand plays semiquavers against the left hand playing triplets) and a ceaselessly moving note figuration and is in cut time. The opening tempo is marked allegro agitato. The tempo changes to largo and later moderato cantabile when the key changes to D-flat major, the enharmonic equivalent of the more obscure tonic major key of C-sharp major. The piece then changes back to the original tempo where it continues in C-sharp minor as before. It ends off in an ambiguous fantasy-like ending, in a quiet and mysterious way, where the left hand repeats the first few notes of the moderato section theme, while the right hand continues playing sixteenth notes (semiquavers).

He wrote this piece when he was 24 years old ... but never liked it since, yet looked how it has been adored by classical musicians till now. It is a very demanding piece. Here, I wish to share my favourite classical pianist with you, the Russian Vladimir Horowitz and the famous American Leonard Bernstein - again, similar piece but rather different interpretations.

Vladimir Samoylovich Horowitz  was a Russian-American pianist. In his prime, he was considered one of the most distinguished pianists of any age. His technique, use of tone color and the excitement of his playing are legendary. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century. He has won various Grammys and even a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990. This is rendition of Fantaisie Impromptu.

Leonard Bernstein  was a multi-Emmy-winning American conductor, composer, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was the first conductor born and educated in the United States of America to receive world-wide acclaim. He is perhaps best known for his long conducting relationship with the New York Philharmonic, which included the acclaimed Young People's Concerts series, and his compositions including West Side Story, Candide, and On the Town. He is known to baby boomers primarily as the first classical music conductor to make many television appearances, all between 1954 and 1989. Additionally he had a formidable piano technique and was a highly respected composer. He is one of the most influential figures in the history of American classical music, championing the works of American composers and inspiring the careers of a generation of American musicians. This is his version of Fantaisie Impromptu.


marzuki said...

So was it you who played Fantasie Impromptu?

TheHoopoe said...

Hah! I wish ... too rusty now ... It was a girl from A*star :)

Anonymous said...

hey - saw this blog come up on google alerts i have set up for the maestro - you might enjoy my channel of non-commercial/unreleased horowitz recordings -

take care!

TheHoopoe said...

hey anonymous ... awesome!
thanks :)