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WALTZES

The waltz originated from country dances e.g. the ländler and evolved rapidly into the aristocratic world in the form of royal and noble dances in Vienna at the beginning of the 19th century. The waltz played an important role in molding the aristocratic lifestyle. The salon-type waltz however achieved its high level of nobility only through the talent of Chopin. Given that one of the first notable waltz composed for piano in this style was "Invitation to the dance" by Carl M. Weber, Chopin's waltzes set the highest standard for the intimacy of the bourgeois home. Chopin composed more than 20 waltzes, 8 of which were published during his lifetime. It is also worth noting that Chopin's waltzes are totally independent of each other even though some are in the same opus. Schumann said that some of Chopin's waltzes were "most out-of-doors kind of salon piece: if Chopin had written it for dancing, more than half of the dancers would necessarily be represented by countesses", and "aristocratic to the tips of its toes", unlike some countryside-type waltzes of Beethoven, Brahms, Grieg, or Tchaikovsky. Chopin however did not intend his waltzes for dancing although some might be eventually danced such as Op.18, 34-1, 42, 64-1... James Huneker said that Chopin's waltzes are dances for the soul, not the body, but their animated rhythms, insouciant airs and brilliant, coquettish atmosphere, the true ballroom atmosphere, seem to smile at this exaggeration. Like some other miniatures, his waltzes should be limited to a small room, provoking intimacy and nostalgia. Even so, ones have realized that some waltzes were among the brightest and most delightful masterpieces Chopin had ever composed. It was evident that Chopin raised the bar of his waltzes so high that no other romantic composer ever overcame. Chopin's waltzes were masterpieces of refinement, nobility, and elegance. 

Waltz Eb major, Op. 18 (Grande valse brillante), 1833 [No. 1]

This waltz, even though numbered 1, was not the first waltz by Chopin. He composed it after arriving in Paris and got it published in June 1834 with a dedication to his pupil Laura Horsford. Being the first waltz directly affected by the Parisian salon style, it is sparkling with glee and vivacity. The first few bars serve as an recitative introduction to the main theme. The first passage of main theme is simply constructed with three ascending and three descending motives. The second passage acts like a reply to the first part, still lively and energetic, which makes the waltz most resemble the ballroom style dance. The waltz then changes its key to D flat major. This extended section has three parts. The first part uses the motif of the main theme but in A instead of B flat and moves more slowly and expressively. The second part first appears animated in the bass D but becomes more tender and lovely when moving up an octave. Unlike the intersection of the first part, which is brilliant and sudden, the second intersection is a really delicate conversation with a series of grace notes flowing gently before falling down to the animated brilliant D bass passage. The third part seems to be memoirs of one questioning and recalling what he had done over the animated past. The main theme in E flat major repeats with stronger octaves, reaches a peak, and then slows down to give way for the coda. The coda starts slowly in the bass with the old grace notes in the low treble and modulates through many motives of previous sections and fades out in the highest E. Three E flat major chords and a low bass concludes the waltz in the true Viennese style.

Waltzes Op. 34 (Grandes valses brillantes): no 1 Ab, 1835; no 2 Am, no 3 F, 1838 [No. 2-4]

Virtuosity, vitality, lyricism, higher quality
less delicate, all spontaneity and geniality

Waltz Ab major, Op. 42 (Grande valse nouvelle), 1840 [No. 5]

most brilliant, ardent

Waltzes Op. 64: no 1 Db (Minute / Le petit chien), no 2 C#m, no 3 Ab, 1847 [No. 6-8]

idealistic realization of aristocratic waltz

Waltzes Op. 69: no 1 Ab major (L'adieu) 1835, no 2 B minor 1829 [No. 9,10]

The waltz Op. 69 No.1 was dedicated to Marie, whom Chopin would have wished to marry.
sentimental expressive character

Waltzes Op. 70: no 1 Gb major 1832, no 2 F minor 1842, no 3 Db major 1829 [No. 11-13]

Tyrolien ländler 
poetic charm

Waltz E minor, 1830 [No. 14]

 

Waltz E major, 1829 [No. 15]

 

Waltz A flat major (Emily Elsner), 1827 [No. 16]

 

Waltz E flat major (Emily Elsner), 1829-30 [No. 17]

 

Waltz E flat major (Klavierstuck / Sostenuto), 1840 [No. 18]

 

Waltz A minor, 1847 [No. 19]

 

Waltz F sharp minor (Mélancolique) [No. 20: recently discovered]

 

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