Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Frédéric Chopin

On the whole, Chopin's waltzes are harmonically simpler than his other works and their triple meter is always clearly articulated. Also, he rarely ventures from the ternary form (ABA) that is the basis for his dance-movement pieces. The great expansions of formal structure that exist in some of the mazurkas or scherzos are not there, but there are a few characteristics associated with Chopin's mazurkas and polonaises scattered throughout the waltzes.

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. These were assembled under one opus number and published in 1855, six years after Chopin's death.

The Waltz in F minor treads the borderline between waltz and mazurka. Both are traditionally in triple meter and ternary form, but in Op. 70, No. 2, Chopin deliberately moves toward the mazurka by including measures with prolonged notes on the first beat and accents on the third beat. Chopin's maturity becomes clear in the construction of the first theme, which is much less predictable than the main theme of earlier Op. 70, No. 1. Here Chopin creates a first theme that spins out over a span of 20 measures. After eight measures, what sounds like a return to the beginning transposed parallels the original for only four measures, after which forte descending scales take over. This eight-measure outburst represents the contrasting material of the A section. Chopin repeats this entire complex before moving on to the middle section of the waltz.

Whereas the first theme begins with a stepwise descent, the middle section opens with stepwise ascent and an upward thrusting arpeggio. Again, through varied repetition of an eight-measure theme Chopin creates a large thematic complex that happens twice, ending with a few repetitive measures featuring a new gesture that is the inversion of the first idea of the piece. These close on A flat major and serve as a bridge to the return of section A. The reprise of section A is literal, although the theme complex appears only once. Chopin follows this with a full return of section B; thus, the overall form of the piece is ABAB. In editions derived "from the manuscript," there is no return of either section; the piece has a simple binary format (AB).