Waltz in A flat major, Op. 34 No. 1 Op. 34 No. 1
Chopin’s virtuosity was born of the need for expression and then disappeared. What came to the fore were lyrical moments, contrasted with dramatic narration, as in the Waltz in A flat major, the first of the three published in 1838 as opus 34. The first of the two themes, which appear in this work as the embodiment of contrasting characters, flows along softly, gently and songfully, ringing with its sequence of parallel sixths. Its humorous complement occurs in the virtuosic figuration, which forms a kind of ritornel, or perhaps rather an interlude in the musical narrative (bars 33–44). The second theme bursts into action with vigour and resolve. It acts through gestures that aim clearly at their goal, held back solely by the resistance of syncopations, but reaching that goal a moment later (bars 66–81). The musical-dance narrative arrives at the central moment, marked by a peculiar lyricism, tenderness and poetry. The melody – here in D flat major – sings and swings, ringing out with its sequences of thirds and sixths that are suffused with harmony and an increasingly distinctive expressiveness (bars (81)82–97). The reprise leads to a wonderful climax, whilst the coda brings calm. The last two chords, struck fortissimo and constituting a kind of closing gesture, articulate the work’s joyful resonance.
The first version of the A flat major Waltz, Op. 34 No. 1 (nota bene one of Chopin’s five waltzes in this key) was written in Dĕčín, Bohemia, at the castle of the Thun-Hohenstein princes. In the summer of 1835, returning from a meeting with his parents in Karlovy Vary, Chopin stopped with the family of three sibling pupils. One of them, Josefina, would become the dedicatee of this Waltz.
Ferdynand Hoesick heard in these waltzes ‘frenzied bravura and flights of poetry; male energy alongside womanly tenderness; an intoxicating paean to amusement, sung in duet’. ‘In this captivating Waltz’, proclaims another monographer, Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, ‘there is not a single cloud – just sunshine, just the brightness of that fine summer month. Not a hint of the autumn to come!’