- For a different piece of piano music often called "Chopsticks" in the UK, see Der Flohwalzer (the "Flea Waltz").
"Chopsticks" (original name "The Celebrated Chop Waltz") is a simple, extremely well known waltz for the piano. It was written in 1877 by the British composer Euphemia Allen under the pseudonym Arthur de Lulli. Allen, whose brother was a music publisher, was supposedly only sixteen when she composed the piece, with arrangements for solo and duet. The title Chop Waltz comes from Allen's specification that the melody be played in two-part harmony with both hands held in a vertical orientation, little fingers down and palms facing each other, striking the keys with a chopping motion.
—rather than playing them at the same time in harmony.
A group of Russian composers - Alexander Borodin, César Cui, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Anatoly Lyadov - collaboratively composed four-hand piano variations on this theme for Borodin's daughter Gania. (Modest Mussorgsky did not participate, thinking that the composition would be meaningless.) The original edition of this collection dates from 1879. The second edition was published the following year (1880), under the title Paraphrases: 24 Variations et 15 petits pièces sur le thème favori et obligé. Franz Liszt was thrilled with this volume and composed a short tribute for piano solo to be inserted before Borodin's Polka. Later editions of the work saw it grow from 15 to 17 other pieces, including a contribution from Nikolai Shcherbachov when it was reissued in 1893.
In the 1946 William Wyler film The Best Years of Our Lives, a story chronicling the difficulties facing returning servicemen from overseas, the famous song composer Hoagy Carmichael performs a duet of "Chopsticks" with Harold Russell, a World War II Navy veteran who lost both of his hands in combat. He played the simple piece (including variations) with Hoagy taking the lower part. Mr. Russell's hooks that served as hands seemingly did not deter him from delivering a rendering of the tune, complete with a final glissando up the keyboard.
The opening notes of "Chopsticks" are often utilized in film and TV productions to illustrate a character's relative lack of ability in playing the piano (example: "The Beauty Queen" episode of My Living Doll).
The Celebrated Chop Waltz is sometimes confused with Der Flohwalzer (the Flea Waltz), which in the UK is also known by the name Chopsticks.
The melody is the basis of "Christmas Chopsticks", recorded by Guy Lombardo (1952) and Bobby Vinton (1964).
- Margo Guryan, "The Chopsticks Variations" (2009 album)
- Blinded By The Light; the Manfred Mann's Earth Band version of this song contains Chopsticks
- "The Celebrated Chop Waltz". IMSLP. Retrieved 2010-05-15.