WaltzesThe waltzes have never lost their original attraction for pianists, either in public or in private. Their rhythmic verve, their wealth of melody, their power to evoke well-defined moods and to recreate the atmosphere of excitement, nostalgia, or languor have exercised an irresistible fascination upon generations of music-lovers. Chopin wrote his waltzes spanning his whole lifetime. They have very little in common with Schuberts’s waltzes, nor do they resemble the Viennese of the Lanner and Strauss circle, who wrote Unterhaltungsmusik for a wide audience. Chopin’s waltzes are designed for the salons of the aristocracy: they are sophisticated works in which, behind the glitter and glamour, deeper and often melancholic feelings are hiding.
Grand Valse Brillante in E-flat Major, Op. 18 — VivoThis waltz might well be the successor of Weber’s Invitation to the Dance. It is one of Chopin’s most popular and glittering works, full of sparkle and pianistic virtuosity. (Note the fast repeated notes and the witty appoggiaturas.)
Valse Brillante in A-flat Major, Op. 34 No. 1 — VivaceThe first work of opus 34 is a genuine concert piece in rondo form and coda, calling for considerable technical powers.
Valse Brillante in A Minor, Op. 34 No. 2 — LentoThis waltz shows the “other” side of Chopin: this piece is full of melancholy, gloom and grief, expressed in mournful simplicity.
Valse Brillante in F Major, Op. 34 No. 3 — LentoThis waltz is a perpetuum mobile in polymetrical figuration.
Grande Valse Nouvelle in A-flat Major, Op. 42 — LentoThis is the most ambitious and substantial of all Chopin’s waltzes. The opening trill leads into a charming melody in 2/4 metre, set against the 3/4 left hand accompaniment. The charming themes, the virtuosic figurations and the exhilarating coda make this waltz a favourite with every audience.
Waltz in D-flat Major, Op. 64 No. 1 — Molto vivaceThis first waltz of Opus 64 was written for George Sand’s dog. It is nicknamed Minute Waltz, although it would be madness to play it within the time of one minute. This sobriquet most likely refers to the small and miniature nature of the work. The sostenuto calm of the central section is a typical feature of many Chopin waltzes, where often a swiftly moving section is set off against a contemplative middle section.
Vladimir de Pachmann arranged this waltz in thirds. When he played his arrangement during a recital in London, he crouched over the keyboard such that nobody could see his hands. When asked why he did this he answered, “Why I do this? I will tell. I see in the audience my old friend Moriz Rosenthall, and I do not wish for him to copy my fingering.”
Waltz in C-sharp Minor, Op. 64 No. 2 — Tempo giustoThis second waltz of Opus 64 is just as popular as the first, although here a yearning melancholy and sorrowful expression brings the piece to a deeper plane of emotion. Artur Rubinstein played this waltz often. When people asked him how he could continue to play the same waltz for over 75 years, he replied, “Because it’s not the same, and I don’t play it the same way.”
Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 64 No. 3 — ModeratoThis one is said to be one of Chopin’s personal favourites: he played it frequently. It possesses a certain inner nobility of bearing. The central C major section, in which the theme sounds in the bass, is of especial beauty. Only the closing section has a build-up of tempo, ending in a sudden whirlwind of scales and triads.
Artur Rubinstein said, “This waltz is the most original of all. This waltz is not for dancing, nor is it a ‘salon piece,’ no, it is a thing directly from Chopin’s heart and soul.”
Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 69 No. 1 (posth.) — LentoThis work is also known as L’adieu. Chopin fell in love with Maria Wodzinska (1819-1896), but her father did not want her to marry a young, poor musician.
Waltz in B Minor, Op. 69 No. 2 (posth.) — ModeratoChopin composed this piece at the age of 19. He ordered this waltz (along with other early works) to be burned, but they were published posthumously. It is common among the repertoires of modern pianists. Its melody exhibits a most sorrowful character.
Waltz in G-flat Major, Op. 70 No. 1 (posth.) — Molto vivaceThis waltz is a gay display of virtuosity. The melody, leaping in fantastic caprices, recalls some of the more exuberant mazurkas.
Waltz in F Minor, Op. 70 No. 2 (posth.) — Tempo giustoThis dance is a gloomy song of failed entreaty. Its melody glances slightly at that which it temporarily enjoyed. The central section is one of absolute beauty, characterizing its style almost perfectly.
Waltz in D-flat Major, Op. 70 No. 3 (posth.) — ModeratoThe thematic material of this piece is laid out in contrapuntal parts, resulting in a rich and colourful polyphony.
Chopin, in a letter to his friend, Titue, on 3 October 1829: “Oh, perhaps, unfortunately, I already have my ideal, whom I have served faithfully, though silently, for half a year, of whom I dream, to thoughts of whom the adagio of my concerto (No. 2) belongs, and who this morning inspired the little waltz I am sending you.”
The girl to whom Chopin referred in this letter was a young and pretty Polish soprano, Konstancja Gladkowska. But Konstancja had many admirers, and Chopin did only admire her from a distance.
Lost WaltzesAfter Chopin’s death in 1849, most of his possessions and some non-published manuscripts went to his family in Warsaw. Chopin’s sister, Ludwika, made a catalogue of the manuscripts, copying only the first bars thereof. In 1863, all manuscripts were destroyed by a fire, leaving behind only this catalogue.
The Piano Society offers free recordings of Chopin’s waltzes.
This page was last updated on 2007-06-22.