Valse brillante in A-flat major, op. 34, no. 1

September 24, 2017: Michael Brown, piano

Much as he did with the mazurka and polonaise, Chopin took the waltz from its function as dance accompaniment and placed it in the elegant surroundings of high-society salons. He dedicated the A-flat major waltz to Mlle. De Thun-Hohenstein—Jozefina—for whom he had copied it out on September 15, 1835, while he and his parents were staying at her family’s castle in Tetschen. In “brillante” (virtuoso) style, the work unfolds as a tightly organized succession of five waltzes framed by a bravura introduction and coda. Some of the waltzes are repeated with variations and return at various stages; the last, in perpetual motion, appears only once. The waltz section that returns most often is notable for its use of the repeated-note motive from the introduction, its rocketing scalar passages, and its stunning leaps. The return of the theme in sixths that followed the introduction brings a sense of recapitulation.

© Jane Vial Jaffe

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