About this work
Composed in 1909, as Fauré was getting to grips with the composition of his grand opera, Pénélope, the tiny, enigmatic Fifth Impromptu seems to revisit the opulent world of the 1880s -- and the first three Impromptus -- with a wry, wizened squint. Through a bleakly fantastic line of perpetuo moto arpeggios and runs passing between the hands, an obsessive three-note falling motif -- outlining intervals of the whole tone scale -- chimes insistently, accumulating ever more effusive melodic extensions and variations to make a voluble central section, before the falling motif returns in octaves, varied and trailing melodic fragments, to disappear in a run up the keyboard. Alfred Cortot thought that "The resulting impression is of a sort of pulsating hallucination.... " -- all the more unsettling, one might add, for its directness and brevity. Fauré protégé Marguerite Long (1874 - 1966) not only gave the première in the course of an all-Fauré recital at the Salle Érard, March 30, 1909, but made a remarkable recording of the work in 1933.