Waltz in E Minor (Op. Posth.)
Chopin wrote his Waltz in E minor in 1830, during the time he composed his concerto in the same key, and shortly before leaving his native Poland. It is a glittering Valse brillante, a work with which the young virtuoso could dazzle and charm the musical world of Europe.
The waltz was not published until 1868, nearly twenty years after Chopin’s death. It seems, however, to have found favour quickly, judging by the large number of pianists who recorded it in the early 20th century, including Rachmaninoff, Hoffmann, von Sauer, Koczalski, Grunfeld, and Cortot. It remains extremely popular today, as evidenced by the hundreds of videos uploaded to YouTube, many of them by young children. Its popularity is partly due to the fact that, although the piece is considered advanced and makes a brilliant effect, it is technically quite accessible. It is therefore an excellent piece for students to study as they enter the early advanced level (it is currently in grade 8 of the Trinity syllabus). And that is the perfect time to learn some sophisticated, yet highly practical, practise methods that will serve them well in many future pieces.
Since this waltz is brilliant rather than lyrical in nature, many of the exercises in this From the Ground Up edition are concerned with mastering technical challenges. Technique is of course mainly a matter of movement, but the way we move is to a large extent determined by the way we think, and especially by the way we think about rhythm. The rhythmic practise techniques described in this article can be applied to many, perhaps even most, pieces that feature any kind of so-called “passage work” (continuous running notes). The discussion of counting measure groups will also be very useful for any piece in which the whole measure is felt as the beat (waltzes, scherzos, etc.). But the immediate goal of this edition is to help you learn Chopin’s Waltz in E minor as quickly, efficiently, and musically as possible. So let’s get to work!
Resources and further reading