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Henselt, Adolf von (1814-1889)



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General Information

Composer: Adolf von Henselt

Title of the Publication: Impromptus

Opus: 7, 17, 34, 37

Composition Year: 1838, 1847, 1854, 1859

Edition Type: Urtext

Edition Number: FE004

Editor: Martijn Vromans

Languages of the Text: English, German, French, and Spanish

Paper: A4 Clairefontaine 120 gsm cream paper

Binding: Black steel wire binding

Pages/Format: Total 30 pages, including 4 pages of introduction and source commentary, plus 20 pages of music.

Weight: 140 g

Difficulty Level: 5/10, 9/10, 6/10, 9/10

Also Included In:

  • FD004 (download)
  • FE001 (anthology)
  • FD001 (anthology download)


Crafted over a two-decade span (1838–1859), Henselt’s 4 Impromptus encompass a broad spectrum of his creative output, united by a profound stylistic harmony. The impromptus offer varied atmospheres: the opening and third impromptus are characterized by their calm, serene, and melancholic nature, in contrast, the second and concluding impromptus are infused with fervor and drama.

About the Music

First Impromptu: Henselt’s initial Impromptu exhibits tranquility. Despite being a single-part piece with one section and spanning just two pages, two distinct themes are identifiable. The themes are each echoed a few times, each time accompanied by a distinct counter-melody, thereby forming a small, yet multifaceted character piece.

Second Impromptu: The simplicity and minimalist nature of the second Impromptu’s melody, with its subtle steps, belies the tense and agitated atmosphere it creates. This is due to a cascade of swift notes enveloping the melody, evoking a gentle whirlwind similar to that in Chopin’s Prelude Op. 28/8.

Third Impromptu: Henselt’s third Impromptu is titled Illusion Perdue. Considering the immense promise Henselt showed in his youth and the absence of its full realization, this piece could very well be autobiographical. Initially somber and restrained, the piece develops into a rich duet, with both hands playing both a melody and contributing to the accompaniment. The piece opens with a hint of hope but soon turns darker, evolving towards an emotional crescendo in its middle. The piece then transitions to a prevailing sense of loss, concluding in a major key that subtly acknowledges the permanent loss of the illusion.

Fourth Impromptu: With its dramatic intensity and a notably dark atmosphere, the fourth Impromptu stands out for its prevalent use of counterpoint. Opening like a fugue, the Impromptu presents an oxymoron, as it blends the structured counterpoint with the spontaneity of an impromptu. Polyphony enriches the subsequent sections of the piece as well, weaving complex musical textures. The piece’s dynamics are marked by stark contrasts, notably in its intense octave passages.

About the Composer

In the pantheon of Romantic composers, Adolf von Henselt stands out as the poet of the piano, whose compositions blend virtuosic technique with deep lyrical beauty. His approach to piano composition and performance marked a significant departure from his predecessors, integrating intricate techniques to enhance expressive depth.

Born to a modest Bavarian family in 1814, Henselt’s prodigious talent catapulted him into the echelons of European music royalty. His early achievements, buoyed by the support of Ludwig I and mentorship under Johann Hummel, set the stage for a career that would navigate both dazzling success and personal battles, including his struggle with stage fright.

Henselt’s move to Russia marked a new chapter, where he shifted focus from performing to teaching, profoundly influencing the Russian piano tradition. Henselt’s impact is traced through his students and their successors, such as Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Goldenweiser and Siloti, embedding his approach into the core of Russian pianism. Despite facing obscurity after his death, Henselt’s oeuvre has been reevaluated, revealing a composer whose works epitomize the Romantic pursuit of emotional depth and technical perfection, ensuring his place in the annals of music history.


  • Portrait
  • Introduction (English, German, French or Spanish)
  • Impromptu No. 1, Op. 7
  • Impromptu No. 2, Op. 17
  • Impromptu No. 3, Op. 34
  • Impromptu No. 4, Op. 37
  • Critical Commentary (English, German, French or Spanish)
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    Our paper editions are pleasing to the eye: gorgeous and heavy cream paper produced in an environmentally friendly manner. We print our albums ourselves and use pigmented ink instead of toner. Due to the ink soaking into the paper, a beautiful print is created. All our albums are bound with a steel binding spine, so the albums last a long time and stand perfectly flat on the piano.