Episode 126: Chopin's Apotheosis of the Waltz

Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 64, No. 3

rc-apotheosis-200Of all of Chopin’s waltzes, you could argue that the two most famous are in the same set: Op. 64 No. 1, and Op. 64 No. 2.

Trouble is, it’s a set of THREE.

Chopin’s dog-in-circles Opus 64, No. 1 waltz is the so-called “Minute Waltz.” The Op. 64 No. 2 waltz, filled with “fascinating lyrical sorrow,” was Artur Rubinstein’s signature encore piece. But…Opus 64 No. 3 is a head-scratcher. It sounds so...simple. UN-Chopin-like.

Ah, but wait. Try actually dancing to this waltz. Or even just tapping your foot. Chopin brings you out to the middle of the dance floor and then proceeds to trip you up. It’s rubato gone mad!

So mad, in fact, that the Germans had a word for it: Hangen und Bangen: “holding back; pushing on; a kind of breathless and vaguely troubled rhythm.”

Perhaps the couple on the floor are having their problems? The middle section has been called “a conversation in the pauses of the dance.” You can practically hear their debate, though in polite, hushed tones.

Then the dance resumes, and the connection to Chopin’s other two Opus 64s suddenly becomes a little clearer. As biographer Jim Samson writes, “Familiarity cannot dull these pieces, which somehow retain their freshness and spontaneity through repeated performances. Every nuance is exquisitely shaped and honed to perfection; every detail is skillfully crafted and carefully placed.” Another simply calls it: “The apotheosis of this genre of inspiration.” - Benjamin K. Roe

Radio Chopin Episode 126: Chopin's Apotheosis of the Waltz

Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 64, No. 3

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