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Impromptu, or improvised, is a French term that appeared for the first time as the title of a musical composition in 1822, with Vorisek's six Impromptus for piano. It denotes a musical phrase which has an improvised nature and rather free form and style, and which uses simple or well-known themes. Thus the Impromptu on a theme from Purcell's The Indian Queen by Alfredo Piatti opens with a very free introduction with numerous cadences. The splendid theme of the aria "They tell us that your mighty powers above" from the fourth act of the opera by Purcell is presented by the violoncello, which then goes on to accompany the theme with ornamentation and arabesques when it is presented again by the piano. Then, after another presentation of the theme in the major key with soft arpeggios by the piano and an evocative change of harmony, the Impromptu closes quickly and lightly.
The Indian Queen, a heroic tragedy written by John Dryden and Sir Robert Howard in 1664, tells the story of the love of Montezuma, a Peruvian general, and Zempoalla, queen of Mexico, in the context of wars between the Incas and the Aztecs. 1t was the last opera that Henry Purcell composed, in 1695, and at his sudden death in November, it was completed (the "masque" of Act V) by his brother Daniel. . One of the last pages composed by Henry Purcell is the marvellous aria sung by Orazia, the Inca maiden imprisoned because of her love for Montezuma. It occurs in the fourth act of the opera and is the one Piatti elaborated in his Impromptu. The text says:

“They tell us that your mighty powers above make perfect your joys and your blessings by love.
Ah! Why do you suffer the blessing that's there to give a poor lover such sad torments here?
Yet though for my passion such grief I endure, my love shall like yours still be constant and pure.
To suffer for him gives an ease to my pains; there's joy in my grief and there's freedom in chains.
If / were divine he cou'd love me no more, and I in return my adorer adore.
O, let his dear life then, kind gods, be your care, for I in your blessing have no other share."

(John Dryden and Sir Robert Howard, The Indian Queen, Act IV).

In my revision of the Impromptu I wanted to preserve the author's original annotations for fingerings and bowings by putting them above the notes in the cello part. Under the notes are some of my suggestions, among many possible solutions.

Christian Bellisario

This piece also lends itself extremely well to cello and organ.

Opera details:
Impromptu sopra un’aria di Purcell nella “Regina indiana”
for cello and piano

Alfredo Piatti Cello Collection
Editor Christian Bellisario

Pizzicato Verlag Helvetia, PVH 766


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