About this work
Viennese waltz style was a thing almost entirely foreign to Frédéric Chopin, and when the Polish-born, Parisian-based composer returned from a journey to the Austrian capital he declared to a friend that, "I have acquired nothing of that which is specially Viennese by nature, and accordingly I am still unable to play valses." To Chopin, as a result, it was left to reinvent the form on his own terms (though a certain debt to Weber's Invitation to the Dance is apparent). Chopin's very individualized waltz output falls easily into two categories: sparkling, highly ornamented little jewels suitable for actual ballroom use, or more purely musical miniatures that are far removed indeed from the fashionable Viennese waltzes of his time. The Trois Valses brillantes, Op.34 contains one example of the former category (the first of the group) and two of the latter (the second and third). Very different in tone is the Valse brillante in A minor, Op.34, No.2 that follows (indeed, the title Valse Brillant hardly seems appropriate for such a melancholy, subdued work). Of all his waltzes this was Chopin's favorite; he positively bathes himself in languor and longing throughout. A change of mode (to A major) at bar fifty-three ushers in a melody of striking loveliness, which, in a moment of bittersweet inspiration, is echoed in the minor mode some sixteen bars later. The opening sixteen-bar gesture is brought back (after a coda that asks the right hand to take over the characteristic waltz-figuration as the left one indulges in running eighth-notes) to serve as a conclusion.
Curated by Maria Nemtsova, Pianist