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Frédéric Chopin

Viennese waltz style was a thing almost entirely foreign to Frédéric Chopin, and when the Polish-born, Parisian-based composer returned from a journey to the Austrian capital he declared to a friend that, "I have acquired nothing of that which is specially Viennese by nature, and accordingly I am still unable to play valses." To Chopin, as a result, it was left to reinvent the form on his own terms (though a certain debt to Weber's Invitation to the Dance is apparent). Chopin's very individualized waltz output falls easily into two categories: sparkling, highly ornamented little jewels suitable for actual ballroom use, or more purely musical miniatures that are far removed indeed from the fashionable Viennese waltzes of his time. The Trois Valses brillantes, Op.34 contains one example of the former category (the first of the group) and two of the latter (the second and third). The Valse brillante in A-flat major, Op.34, No.1, is a kindred spirit to Chopin's earliest published work in the form (though not the earliest in terms of composition), the Valse brillante in E-flat major, Op.18. Marked Vivace, this is a work truly suitable for the ballroom. While the opening fanfare of the Opus 18 Waltz lasts just four bars, that of this buoyant A-flat major piece is extended (by the insertion of chromatically rising chords above a dominant pedal, and by a final descending flourish) to sixteen. The body of the dance sparkles with wit and energy; the coda, which is somewhat less danceable than the rest of the work, is strikingly similar to that of the Preamble to Schumann's Carnival.