a short history of the waltz

waltz-1891-1.jpg!Large

  “Waltz (1891) 

    Anders Zorn

       ________

inadvertently, during my last comments
I let slip, perhaps, prematurely – cause I
thought I’d explore earlier Romantic 
pieces first, more Beethoven, more 
Paganini – the word waltz, when I 
referenced the “Minute Waltz”, a dance 
which expressed a sea change in 
Western cultural history made 
manifest through music 

though the waltz was already the rage
in lowlier social circles in the late 
1700’s, the minuet still held sway in 
the more aristocratic salons, whose 
young swains nevertheless would 
skip out to ferret out the servants’ 
quarters, as young swains do

slowly the dance, for its more 
informal aspects, not to mention 
its sensuous intimacy, became so 
astonishingly mainstream as to 
define pretty well the very century, 
Chopin and the Strausses, Father 
and Son, would take care of that, 
the last two making a carnival out 
of very Vienna

but until the late 1820’s, not much 
was heard of the waltz in the 
musical curriculum, at which 
point it’ll come in with a vengeance  

not much from Beethoven, who, in 
his fifties, was probably about as ,
interested in waltzes as I am in hip 
hop, a ditty only, a trifle, this one,
1824, one of only two waltzes 
from him 

here’s Johann Strauss l, however, 
his Carnival in Venice, 1828, is a 
waltz in Carnival clothing, like 
cadenzas, for instance, in the 
guise of Paganini “Caprices”

here’s Johann Strauss ll, the son,
with his Wiener Blut“, “The Spirit 
of Vienna“, electrifying, 1873, the 
late already 19th Century

but here’s Chopin doing his stuff
1847, right in the middle of both, 
from far away Paris, which was 
going through its list of Empire 
changes right about then, his
Waltz in C-sharp minor

Chopin’s waltz is a more decorous 
composition, more courtly, more 
also introspective, contemplative, 
private, indeed Romantic

note how strongly the Classical 
unities still apply here, tempo, 
tonality and repetition, even more 
markedly than in Beethoven, Chopin 
is Mozart, but with more sentiment, 
and perhaps more rubato, stretching 
the rhythm in composition to 
accommodate a dancer’s presumed 
dip, in his otherwise meditational 
compositions 

the waltz will undergo trials and 
tribulations later, as the world 
turns, but I’ll keep those 
reflections for later

meanwhile, choose your partner


R ! chard