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The Waltz: celebrating New Year

December 30, 2018
The Waltz

Vienna at New Year, is all about the waltz. But if you don’t have a ticket to the gilded Musikverein you can have your own New Year’s Day concert listening to our selection below. Pour yourself a glass of bubbles and celebrate the joy of the waltz! Happy New Year everyone!

The Blue Danube (1866)  – Johnann Strauss II

Possibly the most famous of all the waltzes and the work which earned Johann Strauss the title of the “waltz king”, The Blue Danube was originally written as a choral piece for the Vienna Men’s Choral Association. Soon after its debut, Strauss adapted it for orchestra. Listen to the beautiful shimmering opening with the tremelo violins and the horn calling the dancers to the dance floor.

Waltz of the Snowflakes (1892) – Tchaikovsky

In the early years of the 1800s, the waltz was considered by many to be an indecent dance, requiring close physical contact. The tempo had quickened from the three strong beats in the bar to a strong downbeat followed by two lighter second and third beats. The effect is a lightness that appealed both to dancers and choreographers. The waltz became both intoxicating and exhilarating and spread out from Vienna to the whole world. Tchaikovsky, used the dance to beautiful effect in his ballets. This one is the Waltz of the Snowflakes, from The Nutcracker.

Skaters Waltz (1882) – Emile Waldteufel

Remaining on the winter and ice theme, Emile Waldteufel, was a French composer and bandmaster who wrote more than 200 dance tunes. If you have never heard of him, you will recognise this extract which conjures up snow scenes and light-hearted winter fun. The solo horn, once again, plays its part in this piece and listen for the sleigh bells that help create a wintry ambience.

Waltz in C sharp minor (1847) – Chopin

Waltzes weren’t confined to the orchestra – many were written for the piano. Here’s the famous ‘minute’ waltz. Chopin got the inspiration for this piece as he was watching a small dog chase its tail. Although it is called the Minute Waltz, its nickname was intended to mean ‘small’ in the sense of ‘miniature’.

Lyric Pieces (1867 – 1901) – Grieg

I just love the music of Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg so I have to slip in one of his waltzes. This one is taken from his Lyric Pieces, a collection of 66 short piano works. They are all absolutely beautiful pieces and are like musical picture postcards.

Waltz No. 2, from Suite for Variety Orchestra (1950) – Shostakovich

One of Shostakovich’s best known works, Waltz No. 2, was used as part of the soundtrack for the Russian film The First Elechon. The suite itself consists of 8 movements that can be played in any order. Waltz No. 2 was made famous by Stanley Kubrik’s film Eyes Wide Shut. With it’s use of the alto saxophone, march-like accompaniment, and switching between major and minor keys, this piece has a slight ‘edgy’ feel.

La Valse (1919/1920)  – Ravel

One of the greatest of modern French composers, Maurice Ravel was a master of the orchestra. In La Valse, he evokes the swirling dancers at the Viennese court but at the same time there is an undertone of sadness that hints of the decay and downfall of the glittering Austrian Empire. 

Kaiser-Walzer, Emperor Waltz, (1889) – Johann Strauss II

Let’s end on a real high with the Emperor Waltz. For many years, the music of Strauss was considered ‘lightweight’, but it was admired at the time by many of the musical heavyweights such as Brahams, Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Richard Strauss (no relation to Johann Strauss). The music of Strauss is still popular today as we prepare to welcome in the New Year! 

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