Sometimes when I do a blog challenge, I think, “Isn’t it enough that I tried it? Do I also have to write about it?” This is one of those weeks – the challenge felt like work and now writing about it makes me feel like I’m back in grad school, so I’m going to keep it brief.
Although I love his Ballades and some Nocturnes and Etudes, I really hate Chopin Waltzes. I don’t play them, I try to avoid teaching them, and I have to work really hard not to let my aversion affect my opinion when I judge a performance of a Waltz. Obviously this is a problem. What kind of pianist hates Chopin?
I know what I do every week is nothing more than reliving Green Eggs and Ham again and again, but I’ve never felt more like Sam I Am than I did with this particular challenge.
I pulled out my Dover edition (which I own because I think I should, not because I actually ever use it) and gave myself the assignment to fully familiarize myself with all seventeen waltzes. I spent the week sightreading and then listening to recordings of each waltz.
As I listened, I took notes on each performance and gave each waltz a score out of 10 indicating the likelihood of me ever deciding to listen to it again. I also looked for those which would be most accessible to students. I even kept an eye out for any waltzes I might possibly consider learning myself. It was a long week – more work than I anticipated.
I asked my husband how much detailed analysis of the pieces I needed to include in this post. His reply: I: Oom Pa Pa :I , which is pretty much how I felt most of the week.
I was able to find six waltzes I wouldn’t mind teaching and one I would even be willing to learn if I were forced to choose. The more popular and overplayed the waltz, the less likely I was to like it, but out of the famous waltzes, I think I like op. 64, no. 2 the most.
Out of the waltzes I wasn’t familiar with, my favorite was probably op. 70, no. 2.
There were a few I disliked until I heard a recording that changed my mind and it was helpful to hear different pianists’ approach to the same piece. It seems like the waltz is a good choice for an encore piece – a chance to play something short, familiar and flashy, a sort of burst of light sweetness at the end of a performance. Several performers seem to be trying to show how many innovative touches they can add to the performance in order to stand out from the many, many others who’ve played the same piece. It also seems like the waltzes serve as a vehicle for just plain showing off, for example, Evgeny Kissin’s lightning fast Waltz #14 (op. posth.):
Although this week’s challenge felt like I was doing an assignment for Piano Lit class, it was nice to exercise my sight reading chops and to use my brain a little. I’ve definitely had my fill of the waltz pattern, but I was surprised to find that it became less annoying the more I listened to it. I was even more surprised to find that there were some waltzes I actually enjoyed. Only some, but that’s better than none, I guess. At least my opinion is now based on something other than a sweeping generalization. Speaking of uninformed negative opinions, I wonder what next week’s post will be about?