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date: 30 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter surveys improvisation in the western classical tradition during a period of transition ca. 1800–1830. It considers not only why improvisational practices declined in this period, but also how they were preserved and revalidated in accordance with new musical values. It examines the free fantasies of Johann Nepomuk Hummel, an exceptionally famous composer-virtuoso of this period who was renowned for his improvisational brilliance. Critical responses and public reactions suggest that Hummel’s free fantasies were valued for their capacity to bridge the gap between connoisseurs and dilettantes, as well as the gap between public and private spheres. The chapter reflects on solo improvisation and its relationship to the social significance of improvisation.

Keywords: free fantasy, Hummel

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