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Insensatez (How insensitive, A.C. Jobim), Prélude 4 (F. Chopin)

Mis à jour : 28 juil. 2020

Listen to the Piano version: https://youtu.be/9hZVWyY9XyQ

Listen to the Guitar version: https://youtu.be/KKJp9hAQ7q0

Insensatez (How insensitive)

Insensatez (or How insensitive) from Carlos Jobim is in fact a Bossa cover of the 4th Prelude from F. Chopin, originally written in E minor, during his stay in Majorca with G. Sand. Here it is transposed in D minor.

The 4th Prelude

It lasts 25 measures and is made up of 2 parts A and A’ which are themselves divided in 3 groups of 4 bars.

Parts Melody N° mes. Nb. mes. Main Keys Similarities

A D pedal 1 to 4 4 RE m to SOL m

SD pedal 5 to 8 4 RE m to SOL m rhythm= 1 to 4

Emb + H.C. 9 to 12 4 SOL m to RE m rhythm 10-11 = 1-2

A’ D pedal 13 to 16 4 RE m 13-14 almost like 1-2

Climax + H.C. 17 to 20 4 RE m 19-20 like 10-11

B.C. + Coda 21 to 25 5 RE m rhythm 21-22=1-2

B.C.= Broken Cadence; H.C.= Half-Close; D= dominant; S.D.= Subdominant; Emb= Embellishments

In spite of this subdivision, the melody never really stops. As to chords changes, it is sometimes almost impossible to clearly define a key, even a temporary key.

Part A

This Prelude begins by the melody playing an upward octave on the dominant. The rhythm of dotted eighth note and sixteenth note appears several times in this piece and brings unity (mes. 1, 7, 16, 20). The dominant is then used as a pedal note played on a rather long rhythm (a dotted half note) and alternating with a neighbour tone at the end of each measure.

Under this pedal, plated chords are played on a continuous flow of eighth notes. Remark the first chord, the tonic chord D- is played in its 1st inversion. From this first 3 notes chord, each new chord tone follows a chromatic or at least stepwise downward motion. As a result the bass moves in from the mediant measure 1 to the dominant in measure 10.

These chromatic chords under the dominant pedal provide various harmonisations of this note and allows some 2nd inversions (measure 2, +6 on A7, mes. 3 on A-7b5) and dissonances (Eb7 with a real #11 tension since it is over the 3rd in measure 3).

At the end of mes. 3, maybe we could understand A-7b5, C-7b5 (equal to Ab7/9) and then D7 as a short modulation to SOL minor, the subdominant key. The 2 last chords of mes. 4 could possibly sound in LA minor (the dominant key)…

But in mes. 5 appears a BbM7/6 chord, both a degree VI in RE minor and III in SOL minor. Then a II V progression brings back the RE minor key. Note the delayed 7th of E-7b5 in mes. 5 and 6 which resolves on the raised 7th degree at the end of mes. 6.

In mes. 7, if it were in a Classical or Baroque context the C7 chord from the D natural minor scale would have probably brought the relative F major key. Instead of this usual modulation, Chopin makes the C7 chord become C-7 and brings back the subdominant key SOL minor.

We can find in measure 9 a typical Romantic process. It can be understood either in a harmonic or a melodic way. Let’s start by the melodic one…

In measure 9, note the delayed 7th degree of the SOL minor key (F#). This one resolves on G on the 2nd beat of mes. 9. At the same time there is also a delayed A in the left hand which resolves on G (the 9th of G-). Note that those 2 delayed notes follow an opposite motion, are prepared on the previous beat and resolve on the same pitch : the root of the target chord. Since the resolution is the root in the melodic and intermediate line, therefore it is impossible to play the root in the bass line too. So the only solution for the bass is a first inversion.

A harmonic explanation of it comes from the Classical period : it is just a new form of a +7 chord ! (dominant chord tones over a tonic bass) in which the tonic bass (root bass) would be replaced by a first inversion (or the degree III of the key of the moment).

But only considering the chord on the first beat of measure 9 itself, it is in fact the BbM7+5 chord, the degree III of the harmonic (or melodic) G minor scale ! This is, at last, how to really use it !

The part A finally ends in a long half-close break on the dominant chord (mes. 10 to 12). Note the alternation between the dominant and subdominant chords which produces a sensation of relief and stability. Also remark grace notes in mes. 12 (especially the natural C, #9 of the A7 chord !).

Part A’

Mes. 14 is one half note ahead of measure 2 ! indeed, Mes. 13 and 14 are almost the same as 1 and 2 except the Eb7#11 chord which appears on the 2nd beat of mes. 14 instead of the 1st of mes. 3.

In mes. 15 and 16 the beginning of the melody is the same as in mes. 3 but chords changes are Eb-7b5, A°7, D7, D-, G#°7, E-7b5. Those chords suggest a REb minor key in mes. 15 and LA minor key in mes. 16. Note the minorisation of the D7 chord.

Mes. 17 and 18 are the climax of this Prelude. Indeed, the Bb on the 2nd beat of the soprano is the highest pitch. Moreover, the left hand plays the dominant chord. On the 3rd beat of mes 17, note once again the use of dominant chord tones over the first inversion of the tonic chord (like in mes. 9). In mes. 18 the use of chords changes become more usual with the degree IV, II, V and IV.

Mes. 19 and 20 are almost like 10 and 11. Note once again the alternation between subdominant and dominant. Note the delayed D (4th) in the left hand.

From mes. 21 to the end, the coda uses a tonic pedal as a melody. It starts with a broken cadence and the BbM chord (degree VI of the D natural minor key). Then the harmony passes through several subdominant chords: Bb7 (dominant of the dominant A7), E-7b5 (degree II), a major 2nd inversion of the tonic chord (a cadential 4th and 6th inversion) and the Bb7 chord again.

After a tragic half note silence in mes. 23, mes. 24 and 25 conclude by a perfect cadence in the key of D minor.


Endless melody.

Beginning by a first inversion of I.

The use of chords changes and melody looks like the Jazz approach of the XXth century (tensions on the right hand and plated 3 notes chords on the left hand) and the key sequence turns its back on the Classicism.

The use of a chromatic voice leading in the left hand.

The use of a add6 chord in mes. 5 (BbM6)

Enharmonic pitches appear when 2 roots form an augmented 4th or diminished 5th.

A new approach of the cadential 2nd inversion of the tonic chord, without resolution.

A new form of dominant chord over tonic (degree III of a harmonic minor scale)

Unity in melody

Recurent use of several rhythms : dotted eighth note and sixteenth note, dotted half note and quarter note, eighth note triplet.

Recurrent use of some intervalls : octave, minor second, diminished seventh…

Variety in melody

Embellishments like grace notes, anticipations, neighbour tones… mes. 9, 16, 17, 18 (climax in mes. 17)

Tonal ambiguity (mes. 3, 4, 15, 16)

Unity in harmony

Left hand rhythm, plated chords played on a continuous flow of 8th notes

The bass, tenor and alto follow a chromatic motion (or at least a stepwise motion)

In spite of many discoveries, the harmony still goes from the tonic chord to the dominant chord !

Variety in harmony

Rate variation of harmonic rhythm (slow, fast)

Insensatez (How insensitive)

About the Piano version

The aim of this Piano version was to provide a solo only based on third intervalls for the right hand and a bass following an ostinato for the left hand and using chord inversions.

The introduction is based on the alternation between the tonic chord and the bIIM7 (and M6) chord. The theme follows the chord changes indicated on the lead sheet by C. Jobim. The bass plays a Bossa rhythm while the right hand plays the theme and plated chords tones.

At the end of the first solo, note the 8 mes. transition based on the alternation between D-7, 9 and E-7/D.

Then there is another solo which begins by several line cliché in octaves over minor chords. Next it becomes rather free improvisation.

After a half-close cadence, the Prelude 4 is played.

About the Guitar version

The introduction is a simple I, IV, V, I progression.

Like in the Piano version, the idea of the ostinato is still here at the the beginning of the theme. There is also a solo only based on 3rd intervalls. This one is then followed by a free solo and by the « real » Prelude 4.

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