Impromptu No. 4 in A flat major

I have always remembered a scene from the movie, Portrait of a Lady, based on the Henry James novel.

Isabel Archer (Nicole Kidman) descends a stairway, struck by the beautiful piano music she hears from below.   The music plays on as she walks slowly downward.   Isabel reaches the foot of the stairs and turns into a room where another woman is playing the piano.   The woman stops playing, turns to Isabel and says, smiling,  “Sometimes Schubert has nothing to say to us.” 

I was also riveted by the music and felt I had heard it somewhere before.  It was compelling for some reason I wasn’t sure of.   I watched the movie credits but missed the reference to it.   A few months later, I heard the same music piece on the CBC and noted it down.  Impromptu No. 4 in A flat major by Schubert.  I went out and bought a CD of Schubert Impromptus performed by Radu Lupu, the Romanian virtuoso.

When I played the music a few times, I realized it was reminding me of my mother – and the house I grew up in.   After some thought, I was fairly sure I knew why.   In the 60’s,  my  mother almost always had the radio on during the day.   She usually listened to a classical station, CHQM or else the CBC.  I think that a part of this impromptu was the opening signature tune of a radio program that came on every afternoon.  I ‘m sure I once heard part of  it regularly.

When I want to remember my mother, I often put on this lovely music.   I know she would be more than happy to be remembered by a Schubert Impromptu.


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