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Frédéric Chopin

The waltzes of Chopin's Op. 70 were not composed as a set. The earliest of these, 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, in his waltzes, Chopin rarely ventures from the ternary form (ABA) that is the basis for his dance-movement pieces. We do not find the great expansions of formal structure that exist in some of the mazurkas or scherzos. However, we do hear a few characteristics associated with Chopin's mazurkas and polonaises scattered throughout his waltzes.

Chopin's Waltz in D flat major, Op. 70, No. 3, composed in 1829, is one of the composer's earliest essays in the genre. Only Op. 69, No. 2, and the Waltz in A flat major of 1827 precede it. Polyphony is at the heart of the D flat major Waltz. Over a typical accompaniment in the left hand Chopin writes a melody in the highest register further accompanied by a slithering chromatic line of running eighth notes. Both of these parts are to be played with the right hand. In the seventh measure, however, the stepwise melody shifts from the higher of the two lines to the lower, the top line leaping upward decoratively just before the end of the tune. Subtle voicing details such as this make Chopin's music both beautiful and difficult to perform. Chopin repeats the eight-measure first theme before moving on to a more aggressive contrasting idea that tends toward the dominant (A flat major).

In the middle section, Chopin abandons the persistent chords that articulated the triple meter throughout the A section. This, coupled with a move to G flat and a new melody that moves slowly in the left hand, creates a striking contrast to the first part of the piece. The quiet second half of section B looks back to the contrasting theme of section A, both in harmony and melodic figuration. Chopin rounds off the B section with a full return of its first melody, leading to a literal reprise of section A that closes the piece.