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Chopin Impromptus Mieczysław Horszowski piano

By May 1, 2024No Comments

I have somehow veered away from singing at the moment; but, don’t worry, I have not lost sight of it. This posting is devoted to Chopin’s Impromptus and to one of my favorite pianists.

Chopin composed four Impromptus for solo piano, each a masterpiece in its own right:

1. **Impromptu No. 1 in A-flat major, Op. 29:** This impromptu is characterized by its flowing, lyrical melodies and delicate ornamentation. It begins with a serene melody in the right hand accompanied by arpeggios in the left hand, showcasing Chopin’s gift for creating expressive melodies.

2. **Impromptu No. 2 in F-sharp major, Op. 36:** This impromptu has a more turbulent and dramatic character compared to the first. It features rapid figurations and virtuosic passages, alternating with moments of introspection and lyricism. The middle section provides contrast with its gentle, cantabile melody before returning to the stormy main theme.

3. **Impromptu No. 3 in G-flat major, Op. 51:** Often referred to as the “Fantaisie-Impromptu,” this piece is one of Chopin’s most famous compositions. It begins with a brilliant, cascading passage in the right hand over a flowing accompaniment in the left. The main theme is lively and spirited, with sections of dazzling virtuosity interspersed with moments of lyrical repose.

4. **Impromptu No. 4 in C-sharp minor, Op. 66 (Fantaisie-Impromptu):** This impromptu shares the same title as Op. 51, but it is a distinct composition. It is characterized by its passionate and dramatic expression, with a hauntingly beautiful main theme in the minor key. The piece features rapid runs, sweeping arpeggios, and intricate figurations, showcasing Chopin’s virtuosic pianism.

Miecysław Horszowki
June 23, 1892 – May 22, 1993

I discovered Horszowski relatively late in my life. I have a friend who had taught at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, and she knew students of Horszowski. I heard him play in a church on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. He wasn’t very well known to the general public. He was more a pianist’s pianist, but he had a large following. I heard him again at his farewell recital at Carnegie Hall in 1989, when he was 97 and had only tunnel vision. The recital was sold out and packed with musicians. By that time, Horszowski had become my favorite pianist, and he still is. He was a student of Leschetizky. This may not mean anything to some of you, but you should make it your point to look up Leschetizky, who was in a musical lineage from Beethoven.

Horszowski Early life
Horszowski was born in Lwów (Lemberg), Austria-Hungary (now Ukraine) and was initially taught by his mother, a pupil of Karol Mikuli (himself a pupil of Frédéric Chopin). He became a pupil of Theodor Leschetizky in Vienna at the age of seven.

In 1901 he gave a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in Warsaw and soon after toured Europe and the Americas as a child prodigy. In 1905 the young Horszowski played for Gabriel Fauré and met Camille Saint-Saëns in Nice. In 1911 Horszowski put his performing career on hold in order to devote himself to literature, philosophy and art history in Paris.

While Horszowski’s family was of Jewish origin (which made him a fugitive from Europe in the 1930s), he was himself an early convert to Roman Catholicism and was very devout.

Horszowski, who was barely five feet tall, had rather small hands. He avoided much of the virtuoso repertoire. Horszowski’s performances were known for their natural, unforced quality, balancing intellect and emotion. He was frequently praised for his tonal quality, as was common for pupils of Leschetizky.

Having returned to the concert stage with the encouragement of Pablo Casals, he settled in Milan after the First World War, remaining there until he emigrated to the United States during World War II. Following the war, Horszowski frequently gave recitals with artists such as Casals, Alexander Schneider, Joseph Szigeti and the Budapest Quartet. He often appeared at the Prades Festival and the Marlboro Festival.

From 1940 Horszowski lived in the United States, first in New York City and later in Philadelphia. Horszowski performed with the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Toscanini, with whom he was friends, in 1943 and 1953.

Horszowski twice performed at the White House: with Casals and Schneider in 1961 for President Kennedy and a solo performance in 1979 for President Carter.

Horszowski Later life and death
Horszowski’s final performance took place in Philadelphia in October 1991. He died in that city a month before his 101st birthday. He gave his final lesson a week before his death.