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The Waltz in E flat major, published as opus 18, is of a profoundly Parisian character, not of the sentimental Viennese variety. It shimmers with the gaiety of elegant society. It was written – ostensibly – in a form consisting of a succession of dance themes – now alike, now incongruous. In essence, however, it is an integral whole, in which one theme passes imperceptibly into another, ends, then returns, building up the drama in grand style. ‘It is a true ballroom picture,’ notes Huneker, ‘spirited and infectious in rhythms.’

Each of the dance themes (there are seven in all) brings a different melodic character and dance motion. The way is led by the opening theme in E flat major, consolidating the rotary waltz step in a distinctive manner (bars 5–16). It is followed by a little theme in A flat major, lively and scherzotic, which acts as a vignette (bars 22–30). The theme in D flat major brings our first breather, a switch from rotary to rocking movement, from leaping to singing (bars 70–78). It also has its lively opposite (bars 86–95). A new singing theme appears, taking the dance to ecstatic raptures (bars 118–134). Its complement is in the purest brillant style: the lively melody is bejewelled with acciaccature (bars 136–144). Just before the end, we hear a fluent, undulating theme (in B flat minor), shrouded in sentimental mist (bars 169–177). The introduction to the E flat major Waltz, barely four bars long and exceedingly simple, was brought in to set the rhythm; it did not portend such an impressively elaborate finale, which is at once also the stretta of the themes presented earlier (bars 243–270).

The dedicatee of the Waltz in E flat major, the first of the Parisian waltzes, is one of Chopin’s pupils, Miss Laura Horsford, sister of Emma, to whom Chopin dedicated another work: the Variations, Op. 12. The edition, most aptly, carries the title Grande Valse Brillante. Huneker perspicaciously wrote of Chopin’s Parisian waltzes: ‘There is a high-bred reserve despite their intoxication’.

The reviewer of the Gazette musicale de Paris summarised his opinion as follows: ‘Although particularly suitable for dancing, this waltz is among the most brillantes, and it deserves to hasten its way onto pianos whose rests are not in the least bit accustomed to holding vulgar music.’ Schumann went a step further: ‘It should be danced, at the very least, by countesses’.

Author: Mieczysław Tomaszewski
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Waltz in E flat major, Op. 18 Op. 18
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