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more on 'fantasieren'

Flow of ideas / Gedankenflug / Les Pensées


DUDEN: "hochfliegende (geistreiche und fantasievolle) Gedankenführung oder entsprechender Gedankengang"


Flow of ideas, Gedankenflug, Les Pensées.

Gedankenfolge, Ideenfolge, train of thoughts, chain of thoughts

Auf dem Kopfe spielen: improvising in its broadest perspective, from ornamenting exsiting pieces to free fantasias.

a walk in a park

Czerny: English garden

Taking themes from the audience

themes from the audience

Liszt / Lettre d'un bachelier es musique / Artiste et société 1838: this way of improvising... establishes a more direct rapport between the public and the artist becomes a communal work.


5. Improvisations sur des thèmes donnés par le public, exécutée par Mr. Listz. On est prié de vouloir reméttre les thêmes écritée en musique.


5. Improvisations on themes given by the audience, performed by Mr. Listz. We kindly ask you to provide the themes written in music.




  • natural aptitude (lively imagination, inventive power, quick flow of thoughts, etc)

  • harmony has to become second nature

  • completely perfected technique of playing


  • bold fantasy

CPE Bach p326

  • a thorough understanding of harmony and acquaintance with a few rules of construction

  • natural talent


  • study of bass progressions

  • Man muss längere Noten in kürzere verändern wissen / To know how to change the longer notes in shorter ones

Schumann: musical rules

  • Learn the basic rules of harmony early on.

  • It is certainly very pleasant for you to make up little melodies at the piano, but if they come to you on their own, not at the piano, then you can be even happier since an inner feeling for music is stirring within you. -The fingers must do what the head wants, not the other way round.

  • If you have been given a vivid imagination from above, then you will often find yourself spending solitary hours sitting at the piano as if in a trance searching for harmonies to express your inner feelings. The more mysteriously you feel yourself drawn as if into a magic circle, the more elusive seems the world of harmony. These are the happiest hours of youth. But beware of surrendering to a talent that may lead you to waste time and energy on phantoms. The mastery of form, the power of clear arrangement, can be acquired only through the fixed symbols of notation. Therefore write more, and dream less.

on ornamentationi


duel1781 duel Mozart Clementi

1800 duel Beethoven Steibelt

1803-04 Beethoven - Vogler

duel beethoven-Gelenik?

1837 duel Liszt Thalberg

18?? Kalkbrenner Schumann

1841concert Chopin


20th century

Gabriela Montero improvises with the audience (Hong Kong Debut)

Gabriela Montero improvises with the audience (Hong Kong Debut)
Gabriela Montero improvises with the audience (Hong Kong Debut)
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Gabriela Montero improvises with the audience (Hong Kong Debut)

Experience, Discipline, Fantasy: Improvisation in Classical Music and Jazz - Robert Levin
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Experience, Discipline, Fantasy: Improvisation in Classical Music and Jazz - Robert Levin

20th century

Herbie Hancock solo piano & IBM (1988)

Herbie Hancock solo piano & IBM (1988)
Herbie Hancock solo piano & IBM (1988)
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Herbie Hancock solo piano & IBM (1988)

Keith Jarrett   Piano Solo Live Tokyo 2002
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Keith Jarrett Piano Solo Live Tokyo 2002

Bill Evans - The Creative Process and Self-Teaching
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Bill Evans - The Creative Process and Self-Teaching

Fantasy and Artificial Intelligence 

composing machines: componium (Winkel)


The Henri Herz experience

Henri Herz

Quotes []


Daniel Gottlob Türk (1750-1813)

a fantasia is called free when its creator holds neither to a ceratin main subject (theme) nor to metre or rhythm (although for some thoughts a metre could be used), when he expresses various and often contrasting characters, in short, when he follows his whims completely wthout attempting to work out a specific plan. (Türk, 1789, p. 395)

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)

…during the hours of twilight…to ground my Fantasia on the flow of my own ideas…

Fétis, 1836 p. 30 (Carone p. 8 van 17) 

After an introduction, a simple formal device that is part of all fantasias, and in which one artist can only be distinguished from the other by his ability in developing the motif, Moscheles, -- Fétis writes -- taking hold of this three motives as though to make a single compact entity out of them, first played a free fantasia. [The fruit] of his imagination, in which slight references to the team were scattered here and there in order to prepare the ear to grasp their developments. These teams then appeared one after another, were elaborated by the famous pianist, who connected them to each other through the best possible transitions, and were then brought together and used reciprocally as accompaniment with infinite skill, even though there were no apparent relations among them...Everything [pointed towards] a limpid thought and a rich imagination, but was well regulated in an admirable way.

Moniteur universel 1824, 286.

(Liszt) preluded for a while; then, seizing upon an idea for his opening, which he developed and followed artfully, he took as a transition the first measure of the aria from Mozart's Figaro: Non più andrai. Once seized, this motive was never abandoned by the improvisor; it appeared now in the thunder of a fiery bass, then in the exquisite delicacies of the high notes, alternately emerging and disappearing, and constantly supported by rich, varied, and imitative harmony, yet always carrying with it the authentic stamp of improvisation wether through its beauties or its lavishness.

Daniel Stern, Mémoires, souvenirs, et journaux de la Comtesse d'Agoult (zie Gooley bl 240, nr 81) about Liszt:

His genius..was slowly to be understood, and if he had attempted to play serious music...he probably would not have succeded because his fantasies tended too muxh toward the German genre. Het improvised many times, sometimes very well, other times only decently, but always with enormous success.


To ground my Fantasia on the flow of my own ideas, as also occasionally. To weave among them some known. Theme or subjects? Quite freely and on the spur of the moment. When by degrees, the taste and judgments were correctly formed. And when, after a couple of years quite study in my Chamber, I ventured to extemporize before a few persons only. Lastly, when I had succeeded in attaining such firmness and certainty in all this as to be able to satisfy both parties equally, I ventured to offer myself before the public. Hummel. 1828, volume three, page 74.


Mozart sat down and improvised on this theme for an hour in such a way as to excite general admiration by means of variation and fugues (in which he never departed from the theme), [provingl] that he was a master of every aspect of the musician's art. (Stadler, before 1830, cited in Deutsch, 1965, p. 543)

Czerny: If a well-written composition can be compared with a noble architectural edifice in which symmetry must predominate, then a fantasy well done is akin to a beautiful English garden, seemingly irregular, but full of surprising variety, and executed rationally, meaningfully, and according to plan.

Czerny:...fingers and chance (brieven1851, p79)


...less constrained improvising before two or three thousand listeners than playing a written composition to which i was slavishly subjected.

When I sit at the piano, I stand simultaniously over in that corner as a listener, and whatever does not speak to me, i do not write out. (Hiller, Künstlerleben)

Improving for [Hummel], is not a work of mechanism and memory; he is not content to take a theme, modulate it and embellisch it for a few minutes, then to leave it there to recommence the same operation in a second theme, nay even on a third; no, he seeks a thought, and develops it in all its facets and daring. (Anon., 1830, cited in Stewart-MacDonald, 2011, p. 130)


Moscheles / Fétis

…a free and bold fantasy in thought…

…the most salient ideas, among those that instinct brings under the fingers of the improviser…

No matter how great the talent of the improviser, there will always be some disorder, some redundancy in the premature fruit of his mind, and sometimes his sleepy imagnination will let him wander into the indefinite: but these faults will be redeemed by a certain boldness of invention that taste may disapprove of, but which gains in power precisely from its unusual attraction. This boldness is precisely the chracteristic mark of improvisation.

Charlotte Moscheles: In London he had perfected himself still more, and never failed to attend the Pistrucci evenings, where he listened with great delight to the "Improvisatore," as he enlarged, in well-sounding harmonious verses, on a chance theme suggested by the public. "It gives me food for thought in my own improvisations, " he adds. "I must constantly make comparisons between the sister arts: they are all closely allied." (RMM 53)


de Montgéroult

...these kinds of compositions should be played with some of the disorder of an artist improvising from the sole inspiration of his soul...

Beethoven the greatest advantage in improvisation, and here, indeed, it is moest extraordinary with what lightness and yet firmness in the succession of ideas. Beethoven not only varies a theme given to him on the spur of the moment by figuration (with which many a virtuoso makes his fortune ...), but really develops it. Since the death of Mozart, who in this respect is...still the non plus ultra, [nobody has] enjoyed this kind of pleasure to the degree in which it is provided by Beethoven. (Anon., 1798-99, col. 525, cited in Forbes, 1973(3), p. 205)

Beethoven's improvisations were of a different quality, depending on whether he was fantasizing on themes of his own choosing or on given themes. Czerny, p21.


'just preluded a little' (Wegeler and Ries, 1838, p.110)

Improvising, that is to say, composing without erasure, and without having taken the time to regulate by reflection what sudden inspirations bring more or less happy ideas to the artist, would be an impossible art if his products were to be judged with the rigor that attaches to the appreciation of written compositions.
-Moscheles / Fétis -

Anton Töpken, 30 september 1856 (Robert Schumann, ein Quellenwork, 55).

After social converstaion there nomrally followed on his part free improvisation on the piano, in which he unleashed all the spirits. I will admit thet these direct musical effusions of Schumann gave me a pleasure unmatched by any other great artist I heard. Ideas flowed to him in inexhaustible richness. Out of a single thought, whch he made appear in all different guises, everything streamed and poured forth as if from within itselfand thereby drew charactrestic feeling to its depth, and with all poetic magic while at the same time with the clearly recognizable marks of his mucial personality, both the energy and powerful side and his softly-sweet, refelctive-dreamy thoughts....He had already charmed everyone in larger circles, who really counted on his appearing, with his free improvisations, and would them have an opportunity to appear before the larger public.

Mendelssohn/Goethe/Zelter (impro on offered tune)

Felix played it through after him and the next minute went off into the wildest allegro, transforming the simple melody into a passionate figure, which he took now in the base now in the upper parts weaving all manner of new and beautiful thoughts into it's in the bold style. Everyone was in astonishment, as the small childish is fingers worked away at the great chords, mastering the most difficult combinations, and evolving the most surprising contrapuntal passages out of a stream of harmonies, though certainly without paying much regard to the melody.​

Clive Brown, a portrait of mendelson (New Haven Conn.: Yale University Press 2003) pp. It 223-24

Liszt / Lettre d'un bachelier es musique / Artiste et société 1838: this way of improvising... establishes a more direct rapport between the public and the artist becomes a communal work.

Le DIable boiteux, 15 March 1825

The young Liszt, after obligatory preludes and after a certain number of chords, took the motive 'Non più andrai' from the Marriage of Figaro and varied it most capably; in guiding it through different keys he even found some very felicitous modulations.

Journal de Dijon et de la Côte-d'Or, 20 December 1826, 397-98

Th artist started off with a motfi from La dame blanche that was given to him. A sequence of felicitous developments led him to play the hunters' chorus. The motive from Robin [Der Freischutz] appeared appeared beneath his fingers.Then all the bluster and verve of Weber's music overcame him. With effects full of energy he led toward the gracious motive of the Waltz [Weber's Aufforderung zum Tanze]. he paraphrased it with ever increasing fire and passion until the moment when he completed the subject with a cascade full of grace and a decrescendo.

Boissier, Liszt Pedagogue, 38

He improvises like a god using inimitable detours and delicate, sensitive, unexpected notes, embellished with ravishing fiorituras.

Boissier, Liszt Pedagogue, 73

In the passages he improvises there are harmonic detours and modulations into the minor juxtaposed with the melody, with a charming effect. These are like reflections of melancholy thoughts amid happy things, a cloud that passes in the front of the sun and veils its rays moemntarily; you can't imagine the effect of these contrasts. 

Czerny A systematic 42

As soon as the performer sits down before a larger gathering and generally to improvisein front of an audience he can be compared with an orator who strives to develop a subject as clearly a,d exhaustively as possible on the spur of the moment.

Quoted from Hein's collection Ûber die franzõsiche Bühne (1837) in Chopin: Pianist and Teacher, 284

[Chopin] is not only a virtuoso but also a poet; he can reveal to us the poetry that lives in his soul...Nothing can equal the pleasure he gives us when he sits at the piano and improvises. He is then neither Polish nor French nor German: he betrays a much higher origin...his true fatherland is the dream realm of poetry.


Jakob Adlung (1699-1762) 

Anweisung zum Fantasiren (ca.1725-27)

Anleitung zu der musikalischen Gelahrtheit (=>chapter 17) (Dresden & Leipzig, 1758)

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)

Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (vol.1&2) (Berlin, 1753 & 1762)

=> p325 Von der freien Fantasie

Georg Andreas Sorge (1703-1778)

Anleitung zur Fantasie (vol.1) (Lobenstein, 1767)

Anleitung zur Fantasie (vol.2) (Lobenstein, 1767)

Johann Samuel Petri (1738 - 1808)

Anleitung zur Praktischen Musik (Leipzig, 1782)

=> Zehnte kapitel, Abschnitt vier, p. 249

August Friedrich Christoph Kollmann (1756-1829)

An Introduction to the Art of Preluding and Extemporizing (London, 1792)

Francesco Pollini (1762-1846)

Metodo pel Clavicembalo (=>part III) (Milan, 1811)

Carl Czerny (1791-1857)

Systematische Anleitung zum Fantasieren auf dem Pianoforte, Op.200 (Vienna, 1829)

Carl Czerny (1791-1857)

Die Schule der Praktischen Tonsetz Kunst Op. 600 (vol.1) (Vienna, 1830)

Friedrich Wilhelm Kalkbrenner (1775-1849)

Traité d'Harmonie du Pianiste (Paris, 1849)


Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)

Anweisung zum Piano-Forte-Spiel (1827)

Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870) & François-Jospeh Fétis (1784-1871)

Méthode des méthodes, Op.98 (1837)

Carl Czerny (1791-1856)

Pianoforte-Schule, Op.500 (vol.3) pp. 91-92


Gianmario Borio & Angela Carone

Musical Improvisation and Open Forms in the Age of Beethoven (2018)


Heinrich Schenker (1868-1935)

The Art of Improvisation (1925)

Kenneth Hamilton

After The Golden Age (2008)

Oxford University Press

Bert Mooiman

An Improvisatory Approach to Nineteenth-Century Music (2021)

Dana Gooley

Fantasies of Improvisation (2018)

Oxford University Press

Carl Czerny (1791-1857)

Briefe über den Unterricht auf dem Pianoforte (1839)

Piano Traditions Through Their Genealogy Trees


Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (1834)

Revue et gazette musicale de Paris (1827-1880)

(Leipziger) Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (1798-1848 & 1866-1882)

  • AMZ 1834, 585 on Hummel improvising

Wiener allgemeine Muzik-Zeitung (1817-1824)

Berliner allgemeine Muzik-Zeitung (1824-1830)

Heinrich Christoph Koch (1749-1816)