Chopin’s Waltzes were more familiar to me than any of his other genres until I embarked on this sight-reading project. I played quite a number of them in my youth and have taught several of them regularly. They’re more accessible for a wider range of students than most of the other works; this doesn’t mean they’re easy, and a student who is already stretched at the grade 9 level will not do well with these pieces.
Like his mazurkas, these waltzes were meant for solo piano performance, not for music to dance to, although Chopin’s audiences would have recognized these different dances. For me, playing through the waltzes was a trip down memory lane.
For the most part, I like sections of various waltzes rather than as whole pieces. The melancholy of the beginning of the Op. 34 No. 2 (#3, A Minor) gives way to a warm, rich A Major section, that breaks that heart when it returns to A Minor.
The Waltz #5 in A Flat Major (dubbed the 2/4 waltz), after all those nasty up-and-down figurations that are not quite arpeggios, melts into a sostenuto section at bar 121 that is one of my favourite sections in any of the waltzes. Incidentally, I have Gary Steigerwalt‘s autograph at the top of my score of this piece – I heard him play in the late 70s after he had won the Liszt-Bartok Competition in Budapest. My teacher (bless his heart!) was always dragging his students along to see whichever concert artist came to town.
The Waltz in C sharp minor (op 64 no. 2) is one of the easier waltzes, and one that I’ve taught a few times. My most recent student to play it was one of my daughters, shortly after we “discovered” Pink Martini. They incorporate part of this waltz into one of their pieces (Mar Desconcido), as they do a number of classical compositions. We love the group as a family, have seen them twice in concert, and for a number of reasons they are special to us. So, the waltz has taken on a special hue for her.
Going back further in years for me, my mom used to play the G Flat (op. 70 no.1) and the D Flat (op. 70 no. 3) major waltzes. I remember being upset at about age 13 that I couldn’t sight-read this D Flat adequately. Perhaps I was a bit hard on myself.
In our Piano Repertoire class at university we had to keep a journal chronicling our thoughts about all the major rep as we listened our way through them (the beginning of blogging?!). We students learned early on in the year that the more references we made to loving something because it reminded us of our childhood, the better our marks would be. The professor was probably on to us. Nevertheless, it is true that these early memories induce a love for some music that doesn’t fade.
One more note in this rather rambling post – I just read on Wikipedia that a movie called Impromptu (1991) was made about Chopin and George Sand starring Hugh Grant as Chopin. Really? Hugh Grant? This is not computing for me. Has anyone seen it?
- Musings about Chopin: The Nocturnes (ladonasmusicstudio.com)
- Musings about Chopin: Andante Spianato – and Pink Martini (ladonasmusicstudio.com)
- Musings about Chopin: The Scherzi (ladonasmusicstudio.com)