Phase A  extemporized music-making performed on the spot without significant pre-meditation

example: a listener asks to hear an impromptu in G Major, and: play!

Phase B  extemporized music-making performed after initial thoughts and attempts

example: "That impromptu was decent, but this certain passage didn't really work. Try this, or that. And what about the general structure?"

Phase C  the phase during which an instance of music-making takes on a solid structure and form, when the content becomes fixed (usually involves notation)

example: finding and writing down an ideal version of the impromptu in G Major

Phase D  finding ways to experiment with notated music and to play something else than what the written music implies, to never realize the score the same way twice

example:  practicing to play the impromptu in G Major in Eb Major, taking the contents of the impromptu's bass line and creating a new piece with different melodic and accompanimental characteristics, super-imposing a harmonic reduction from another piece onto some of the impromptu's characteristics, etc.



A        exhibits Phase A musical activity

B        exhibits Phase B musical activity

C        exhibits Phase C musical activity

D        exhibits Phase D musical activity

audio  audio recording

score  manuscript / score

video  video recording


unsatisfactory  unsatisfactory

satisfactory  satisfactory

exemplary  exemplary

The music heard here heavily reflects the regular supervision I received from Rudolf Lutz (Professor Emeritus at the Schola Cantorum in Basel, Switzerland) from 2013 to 2017. This chapter as a whole should be considered as a codification of Lutz's methods for teaching musical improvisation as seen from my perspective and applied to my project and the musical language of my choosing (Schumann and his milieu).


I experienced Lutz's teaching method to reinforce similar values to Indian classical music improvisation pedagogy the way it is described by improvising guitarist Derek Bailey in his book Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music from 1992:


Most [Indian classical, BM] musicians learn to improvise by accident; or by a series of observed accidents; by trial and error. And there is of course an appropriateness about this method, a natural correspondence between improvisation and empiricism. Learning improvisation is a practical matter: there is no exclusively theoretical side to improvisation. Appreciating and understanding how improvisation works is achieved through the failures and successes involved in attempting to do it. Indian music with its long complex relationship between teacher and pupil has the only methodology or system which acknowledges these basic characteristics of improvisation. (Bailey 1992, 8)


While Bailey may still be correct in stating that Indian classical music is the only musical tradition where such an improvisation pedagogy is widespread, working with Lutz was similar in the sense that he rarely told me exactly what to play and allowed me to make my own musical discoveries through trial and error. Indian classical musician Viram Jasani explains to Bailey that "your teacher, when he's in the mood to teach you a particular raga, won't say to you, 'this is the scalic structure of the raga and these are the notes used in that raga'  what he will do is to play to you and tell you to listen and perhaps ask you to imitate certain phrases that he is playing" (Bailey 1992, 8). Lutz and I spent time engaging in a musical discourse that was similar to what Jasani describes  Lutz might play a phrase and ask me to continue it, for example, or we would occasionally have sessions where one person would play a phrase, the other would continue the thought, and this would continue back and forth between us for some time. These interactions helped me to find my own way of realizing a musical moment without Lutz ever necessarily telling me exactly what to do.


The terms Phase A, B, C, and D presented above are attributed to him and guided his teaching strategy as applied to my work and this project.

Overview of the following chapters

In the chapter On Sonic Signature, the roles that Schumann and I play in this project will be discussed in more detail by presenting the concept of sonic signature as a way of describing how music bears certain audible qualities that reflect the individual approach of a specific musical practitioner. The viewpoints of two prominent pianist-improviser-composers, Frederic Rzewski and Robert Levin, as to what is happening during improvisation will be analyzed in the chapter Between Listening, Forgetting, and Conceptualizingto present a continuum that exists between these activities while improvisingIn the Conclusion, the knowledge gained from this project will be described as lying within the realm of improvisation as practice, a category of improvisational behavior that circumvents the need for practice to be presented as art and that it can rather be intended for the development of one’s own music-making.

Lang zal hij leven!    B    audiosatisfactory

Old Soul    B    audiounsatisfactory

Menschenblut    B    audioscoreunsatisfactory

Experimenting with articulation - 

Experimenting with arpeggiation and hand dissynchronization -


Jubel für Ruedi    B    audioscoreexemplary

Preliminary steps

Widmung    B    audiosatisfactory

Experimenting with dynamics - 

Experimenting with tempo modification -


Experimenting with rhythm - 

Happy Birthday Georg!    B    audioscoresatisfactory

Blumengedicht    B    audiosatisfactory

Sonata in G minor    B C D    audioscoresatisfactory

Nachtgesang    B C D    audioscoreexemplary

Creating layers for improvisation


Apples and Pears    B    audiounsatisfactory

Mondlicht    B    audioscoresatisfactory

Experimenting with character distinction -

sorglos    C    scoresatisfactory

Descent    C D    audioscoreexemplary

goldgelb    A    audiosatisfactory

M.    C  D    audioscoresatisfactory

Humoreske    A    audiosatisfactory

Liszt Salterio    A    audiosatisfactory

F.A.E. Variations    A B C D    audioscoreexemplary

Lieder ohne Worte    A  B    audioscoreexemplary

Ouverture in D Major    A    audiosatisfactory

Herbstnebel aufhebt   A     audiosatisfactory

Practicing ... 

zart    A    audiosatisfactory

- Re-arranging pitches

- Harmonic reduction

Melancholy    A    audiosatisfactory

Jagdtrunk    A    audiosatisfactory

Conflict / Resolution    A    audiosatisfactory

- Transposition


- Superimposing characteristics from one musical score onto the characteristics from another

Improvising a stand-alone character piece

- Roughly imitating a piece of music

- Taking genre and context into consideration

- Starting to play a piece only to abandon it and complete the musical experience yourself

Improvising a cadenza within a piece

Georgs Sonntag    A    audioscore

Roses    A    audiosatisfactory



Burlesque    A    audiosatisfactory

Eusebius Traum    B    soundscoregood

Impromptu    A  B    audiosatisfactory

Haydn and Beethoven    B     videoaudiosatisfactory

Melancholic Flowers    B    aunsatisfactory

R meets R    C  D    audioscoreexemplary

Clementi with Couplets     B    audiosatisfactory

Prelude to Waldszenen    B    audiounsatisfactory

Prelude Vorfreude    A  B    audiosatisfactory

Waldszenen    B    audiounsatisfactory

The items on Czerny's list are all represented by various musical examples in Playing Schumann Again for the First Time.

Firstly: the art of preluding can be heard before Waldszenen or without any particular associated piece (Prelude Vorfreude).

Secondly: cadenzas and fermatas can be heard in the middle of a piece like in Clementi with Couplets, and furthermore in a concerto context at the final fermata indicating that the performer should play a cadenza (Haydn and Beethoven and Cadenza in the Humoreskealthough Haydn and the Humoreske are not concertos).

N.B. These two forms of improvising should be considered preliminary exercises and only part of the greater art of real improvisation.

Thirdly: real, stand-alone improvisation, which can be broken down into the following categories:

a) the realization of a single theme in all forms typically found in composition (Happy Birthday Georg!).

b) by developing and then connecting a few themes together into one (not necessarily in a stand-alone character piece as Czerny implies but as transitional material from Schumann to Chopin / Chopin to Brahms).

c) in potpourris, where popular motives are assembled together with modulations, passage-work, cadenzas, without necessarily developing one particular theme (Impromptu for example).

d) in variations in all typical forms (F.A.E. Variations).

e) by extemporizing in structured (Nachtgesang) and contrapuntal (Georgs Sonntagstyles.

f) in the most unstructured and free capriccios.

Although every item on Czerny’s list is represented by a musical example exposed in this project, the music-making is more guided by the desire to create character pieces similar to the ones Schumann composed. In the context of Czerny's list, they could be described as music related both to the free capriccio (f) and structured or contrapuntal extemporizing (e).

In the chapter where Czerny discusses improvising different genres of music using one theme, he provides another list  this time of different musical genres in which one should be able to improvise:

Here below follows a complete list of the musical examples exposed in this research project according to how they might be organized into Czerny's genres:

a) Allegro, more or less like the first movement of a sonata: RosesParallel / Contrary MotionJagdtrunk, Herbstnebel aufhebt, Ouverture D MajorLieder ohne Worte, goldgelb, Sonata in G minor I., Happy Birthday Georg!, M., F.A.E.Var. 2

b)  Adagio, in a serious style: Eusebius TraumFree Fantasy à la Kreisleriana VI.Prelude to WaldszenenMelancholy, Liszt Salterio, Menschenblut, Mondlicht, Widmung, Sonata in G minor II., Nachtgesang

c)  Allegretto grazioso, simple, or with ornaments in the galant style: Melancholic FlowersR meets RWaldszenen, zart, Blumengedicht, Old Soul, sorglos, Descent

d) Scherzo presto, capriciously:  Kreisleriana V. meets Kreisleriana VIII.Prelude VorfreudeSchumann to ChopinImpromptu, Conflict / Resolution, Apples and Pears, Sonata in G minor III., Le Chat du Jean-Baptiste, F.A.E. Var. 4

e)  Rondo vivace:  Clementi with Couplets, Sonata in G minor IV., Jubel für Ruedi

f)  Polonaise: (Because of their similar metric characteristics, and also because I never consciously tried to perform a polonaise within the scope of this project, everything that could come close to resembling a polonaise has instead been categorized as a waltz in the item i) here below.)

g)  Theme for variations: F.A.E. Theme 

h)  Fugue, or often also canon: Georgs Sonntag, M., F.A.E. Var. 3, F.A.E. Fugue

i)  Waltz, ecossaise, march, and similar:

Waltz: Chopin to Brahms, Burlesque, Humoreske, F.A.E. Var. 5

March: Cadenza in the Humoreske, Left Hand Cello Prelude, Lang zal hij leven!, F.A.E. Var. 3

March-like Waltz1F.A.E. Var. 1, F.A.E. Var. 6

Czerny calls extemporized performance “real improvisation” when the resulting music is not based on any specific score. In the fifth chapter of his Anleitung zum Fantasieren, he lists certain genres in which one could improvise in performance, including different categories of free fantasies.

(Czerny 1829, 36)

Czerny's first category of improvising in performance – the art of preluding – arguably remained the most commonly practiced into the modern era: "recordings by Ferruccio Busoni, Josef Hofmann, Wilhelm Backhaus and others document [...] the improvisation of preludes, a practice that remained strong throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth centuries" (Goertzen 2011, 157). Goertzen continues by describing that one can hear in certain recordings that "the performers play the preludes quietly, so that they appear to be directed back towards the pianist himself rather than projecting outward across the audience. In this way [... they] have a tone that is different from the compositions they connect" (ibid.).

article five from Czerny's Anleitung zum Fantasieren, a list of functional contexts in which to improvise during a concert performance, including different categories of free fantasies (Czerny 1829, 4)

Whereas I believe “contrapuntal” style is relatively clear to the modern reader, here below are two of examples of what Czerny calls “structured” (gebundenen) style to help demonstrate what he means by the term:

Mooiman makes an important observation in his dissertation "An improvisatory approach to nineteenth-century music" as to how piano music of the time could represent other musical genres:

A passage in a piano piece may, for instance, bring to mind associations with the sound of trumpets, on the basis of a typical combination of harmony, melody, rhythm, texture and range; in other words: these parameters strongly suggest a locus communis, and the performing pianist will be guided by this. And although this pianist cannot possibly make his instrument sound like real trumpets, the music as performed can make the same impression, provided that the locus is familiar to the listener. The consequence is that actual sound colour is of secondary importance – not because it is not clearly conveyed in the score (which is also true), but for the intrinsic musical and stylistic reason mentioned above. In short, musical parameters in nineteenth-century tonal music show a characteristic hierarchy. (Mooiman, 2021, 153)


(Czerny 1829, 97)

(Czerny 1829, 100)

Bert Mooiman makes an interesting claim about nineteenth-century music in his dissertation , namely that "musical parameters in nineteenth-century music show a characteristic hierarchy" (Mooiman, 2021, 153), in other words that parameters that exhibit aspects of rhythm, harmony, and/or melody relate to specific aspects of character or genre. It is this quality of nineteenth-century music that I believe enables the improvising performer today to extract certain characteristics from nineteenth-century scores, utilize them in their own improvisations, and create connections