About this work
The waltzes of Chopin's Op. 70 were not composed as a set. The earliest of them, No. 3 in D flat major, dates from 1829; No. 1, in G flat major, is from 1833. Eight years later, Chopin composed No. 2, in F minor. The three waltzes were assembled under one opus number and published in Berlin in 1855, six years after Chopin's death.
On the whole, Chopin's waltzes are harmonically simpler than his other works, and their triple meter is always clearly articulated. Also, Chopin rarely ventures from the ternary form (ABA) that is the basis for his dance-inspired works. We do not find the great expansions of formal structure that exist in some of the mazurkas or scherzos. However, we do find a few characteristics associated with Chopin's mazurkas and polonaises scattered throughout the waltzes.
The first theme of the Waltz in G flat major, Op. 70, No. 1 contains a rising arpeggio similar to some of the "rocket" gestures in the polonaises. After this, upward leaps produce a mazurka-like accent on the third beat of the measure, generated by both the very high register and the length of the note. The eight-measure first theme, which is heard twice, is really a four-measure idea with a slightly varied repetition that remains firmly in G flat major. The second theme of the A section, which develops the arpeggio figure of the first theme, is constructed along the same lines, although the harmonic center shifts to the dominant.
Chopin creates contrast in the B section through nearly every musical device except harmony. The section opens in G flat, resolving the dominant harmony of the preceding phrase and bringing us back to the tonic, but the melody could not be more different from those of the A section. Stepwise motion is the rule, the constant descent providing a foil to the rising leaps and arpeggios of the first section. Furthermore, repeated notes, dotted rhythms and a quiet dynamic leve create an atmosphere and inward intensity completely absent from the previous material.
Typically, the reprise of section A is truncated; in this case Chopin abandons the secondary theme entirely, settling for a literal repeat of both statements of the first theme and an abrupt close.