"Impromptu" by Bernard Rands - Petrushka Project02:24

"Impromptu" by Bernard Rands - Petrushka Project


Bernard Rands is a composer of contemporary classical music. He studied composition at the University of Wales, Bangor, with famous modern composer Pierre Boulez. He has since taught at prestigious music schools such as Princeton and Julliard just to name a few. He has wrote for many genres of music such as opera, orchestral, chamber, musical theater, solo instrumental, etc. Rands piano piece Impromptu, really shows off Rands’ musical style and goes toward a less aggressive approach to dissonance, which is a different trait then other composers of the post-modern era. 

Analysis Edit

Impromptu, like the title suggests, is meant to be played with a feeling of improvisation. The piece has two man elements that contrast each other is style. The first element, which can be heard in the left hand, consists of trills and tremolos played at a very tight interval (0:01-0:36 and continues throughout piece). The right hand plays the other musical element heard in this piece. This element is a staccato, single-note, playful motive. It darts around the keyboard and it is almost as if the pianist is just randomly picking out what keys to hit (0:01- 0:36 and throughout piece). Even though the two elements are widely different, it works in this piece musically and makes it interesting.


Comparing Rands’ Impromptu to another piece of this time, Philip Glass’s cello octet, Facades, one can hear many differences in musical style. Rands’ Impromptu doesn’t really have a sense of direction – it sounds/feels improvised as the title suggests. Glass’s Facades has a melodic direction. The cellos on the lower parts of this octet repeat the same theme over and over while the top cello has the melody. The piece has a minor feel but sometimes has moments were it is in major (just for a brief moment). The piece has a sense of direction and cadences while Impromptu does not.


I had never heard of Bernard Rands before this project. After listening to some of his compositions, I do like him as a solo instrument composer but not as a large ensemble composer (some of his works get weird!). I did enjoy Impromptu – I liked the improvisational feel and how the pianist sounded like they were just picking notes at random when in actuality they were not. I also very much enjoyed comparing Rands work to Philip Glass and listening to his cello octet – I had never heard it before!  All in all, I found two new composers I now enjoy.

Works CitedEdit

Crocker, Richard. A History of Musical Style. McGraw-Hill Book Company. 1966.

“Bernard Rands: Piano Music 1960-2010.” WTJU Classical Comments. Published April 11, 2014. Accessed May 1, 2014.

“Bernard Rands: Composer.” Official Website. Accessed May 1, 2014.

“Impromptu by Bernard Rands – Petrushka Project.” Youtube Video. Posted by “ProjectPetrushka.” Uploaded July 25, 2012. Accessed May 1, 2014.

“Philip Glass- Facades (cello octet).” Youtube Video. Posted by “Pseudologizt.” Uploaded December 23, 2011. Accessed May 1, 2014.

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