A waltz (German: Walzer; French: Valse, Italian: Valzer), probably deriving from German Ländler, is dance music in triple meter, and if written, often written in time signature 3/4. A waltz typically sounds one chord per measure, and the accompaniment style particularly associated with the waltz is (as seen in the example to the right) to play the root of the chord on the first beat, the upper notes on the second and third beats.
The name "waltz" comes from the German verb walzen, in turn taken from the Latin verb volvere, which describes the turning or rotating movement characteristic of the dance. Although French writers have attempted to connect the waltz to the 16th century volta, firm evidence connecting this Italian form to the earliest occurrence in the mid‑18th century of walzen to describe dancing is lacking (Lamb 2001).
Classical composers traditionally supplied music for dancing when required, and Franz Schubert's waltzes (including the Valses Sentimentales and Valses Nobles) were written for household dancing, without any pretense at being art music. However, Frédéric Chopin's surviving 18 waltzes (five he wrote as a child), along with his mazurkas and polonaises, were clearly not intended for dance. They marked the adoption of the waltz and other dance forms as serious composition genres. Other notable contributions to the waltz genre in classical music include 16 by Johannes Brahms (originally for piano duet), and Maurice Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales for piano and La valse for orchestra (Lamb 2001).
The long period of the waltz's popularity was brought to an end by the First World War, which destroyed the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and the Viennese culture which had nurtured it for so long. European light music shifted from Vienna to Berlin, and compositions by composers such as Gustav Mahler, Igor Stravinsky, and William Walton treated the dance in a nostalgic or grotesque manner as a thing of the past. Waltzes nevertheless continued to be written by composers of light music, such as Eric Coates, Robert Stolz, Ivor Novello, Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter, Oscar Straus, and Stephen Sondheim. The predominant ballroom form in the 20th century has become the slow waltz, which rose to popularity around 1910 and was derived from the valse Boston of the 1870s. Examples derived from popular songs include "Ramona" (1927), "Parlami d’amore, Mariù" (1933), and "The Last Waltz" (1970) (Lamb 2001).
In a jazz context, "waltz" signifies any piece of music in 3/4 time, whether intended for dancing or not (Anon 2002). Although there are early examples such as the "Missouri Waltz" by Dan and Harvey’s Jazz Band (1918) and the "Jug Band Waltz" or the "Mississippi Waltz" by the Memphis Jug Band (1928), they are exceptional, as almost all jazz before 1955 was in duple meter. It was only after the “bop waltz” appeared in the early 1950s (e.g., Thelonious Monk’s recording of Carolina Moon in 1952 and Sonny Rollins’s Valse Hot in 1956) that triple meter became at all common in jazz (Kernfeld 2002).
Many classical composers have written waltzes, including:
- Carl Maria von Weber's Invitation to the Dance (sometimes erroneously called Invitation to the Waltz)
- The Strauss family—notably Johann Strauss Senior and Junior, the latter being composer of the famous The Blue Danube, were perhaps the most famous of all waltz composers. Joseph and Eduard Strauss also wrote many waltzes.
- Joseph Lanner composed many Viennese-style waltzes, including Die Romantiker, one of his most famous.
- Anton Diabelli composed a simple Waltz in C Major upon which Ludwig van Beethoven built his Diabelli Variations
- Frédéric Chopin's waltzes for the piano are well known, among them the “Minute Waltz”.
- Francisco Tárrega's Gran Valse
- Jean Sibelius's orchestral Valse triste is an unusually slow, even morbid example of a waltz for full orchestra.
- Alexander Glazunov wrote a pair of orchestral Concert Waltzes, and some waltzes for piano solo.
- Maurice Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales (originally for piano, but arranged by Ravel for orchestra) and orchestral La valse are well known.
- Ion Ivanovici wrote the famous waltz Waves of the Danube
- George Gershwin composed four waltzes for his score to Shall We Dance (1937).
- Many other 20th-century composers have composed waltzes, including Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich and Igor Stravinsky.
Waltzes can also be found as part of larger works:
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony shows an example of a waltz standing in for the more usual minuet or scherzo.
- Tchaikovsky's ballets Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker all contain waltzes, as do Prokofiev's Cinderella and Glazunov's ballets Raymonda and The Seasons
- Operas containing waltzes include Giuseppe Verdi's La traviata with "Libiamo ne' lieti calici", sung by Alfredo and Violetta in Act 1, Franz Lehár's The Merry Widow, Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Prokofiev's War and Peace, and Charles Gounod's Faust.
- In George Gershwin's Variations on "I Got Rhythm" for piano and orchestra, the first variation heard is a waltz.
- The first movement of Aram Khachaturian's Masquerade Suite is a waltz.
- Dmitri Shostakovich wrote several waltzes for his jazz suites and suite for variety orchestra, most notably Waltz No. 2 in C minor from the suite for variety orchestra.
- The Second Movement of Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique is titled "Ein Ball" (German for "A Ball"), and is marked "Valse Allegro non troppo" (French and Italian for "Waltz, not too happy").
Popular song waltzes
The waltz was a familiar format in popular songs until the 2010s. Some waltzes which are well-known popular hits include:
From the 1920s: "The Anniversary Waltz", "Are You Lonesome Tonight", "Always", "Remember", "What'll I Do", "All Alone", "The Song Is Ended", "Russian Lullaby", "Marie", "Together", "Lover", "Charmaine".
From the 1930s: "Falling in Love with Love", "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World", "Reaching for the Moon", "Someday My Prince Will Come", "The Touch of Your Hand", "Wait Till You See Her", "When I Grow Too Old to Dream", "The Whistling Waltz".
From the 1940s: "Goodnight, Irene", "You Always Hurt the One You Love", "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'", "Out of My Dreams", "Californ-i-ay", "Hello, Young Lovers", "The Carousel Waltz", "The Girl That I Marry", "The Girl Next Door", "Cruising Down the River", "Tenderly", "Let's Take an Old-Fashioned Walk", "It's a Big, Wide, Wonderful World", "You're Breaking My Heart". "This Nearly Was Mine", "A Wonderful Guy".
From the 1950s: "The Tennessee Waltz", "If", "I Went To Your Wedding", "Song from Moulin Rouge (Where Is Your Heart)", "True Love", "Allegheny Moon", "Rock and Roll Waltz", "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)", "Tammy", "Around the World", "The Chipmunk Song", "El Paso", "Edelweiss", "My Favorite Things".
From the 1960s: "The Royal Waltz", "Somewhere, My Love (Lara's Theme from Dr. Zhivago)", "What the World Needs Now Is Love", "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman", "Time to Get Alone", "Friends", "The Last Waltz", "Jean".
From the 1970s: "Time in a Bottle", "Piano Man", "Annie's Song", "When I Need You", "If You Don't Know Me By Now", "Three Times a Lady", "Take It to the Limit", The Godfather Waltz, "Watching the River Run" by Jim Messina, "My Sweet and Tender Beast" by Eugen Doga, "The Millionaire Waltz" by Queen, "Old Shoes" by Tom Waits.
From the 1990s: "Kiss from a Rose".
From the 2000s: "Breakaway (Kelly Clarkson song)".
Among popular composers, it seems they either wrote a lot of waltzes or almost none. Irving Berlin wrote some waltzes, including "When I Lost You", "Reaching for the Moon", "Let's Take an Old-Fashioned Walk", "(Just One Way To Say) I Love You", and "Let's Go Back to the Waltz". Similarly, Richard Rodgers wrote many waltzes, including "Lover", "Oh What a Beautiful Morning", "Out of My Dreams", "Edelweiss", "My Favorite Things", "Falling in Love with Love", "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World", "Wait Till You See Her" "This Nearly Was Mine", "A Wonderful Guy", "Hello, Young Lovers", and "The Carousel Waltz".
Henry Mancini included many waltzes among his popular songs: "Moon River", "Charade", "Dear Heart", "The Sweetheart Tree", "Tana's theme" and "Whistling Away the Dark". In contrast, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin and Cole Porter wrote only a small number of waltzes each. Stephen Sondheim often uses the waltz in his music, particularly in A Little Night Music
Contemporary musicians[vague]have also made use of the waltz form. Notable examples include:
- Julie Delpy: "A Waltz For a Night", from the movie Before Sunset
- AR Rahman, "Waltz for Romance" (in 'A'major chord) for the score of the movie Lagaan
- Aqualung, five tracks from Strange & Beautiful (notably Extra Ordinary Thing and Good Times Gonna Come)
- Hayley Westenra, Dark Waltz
- Bill Evans: "Waltz for Debby" (1956) being one of his most popular contributions.
- Elliott Smith, a folk-rock musician who also wrote several pieces in waltz time, most notably "Waltz #2 (XO)" and "Waltz #1" from the album XO (album) (1998).
- Patrick Doyle, composer of the soundtrack to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, wrote a waltz for the Yule Ball in this film.
- Number One Fan: "Waltz in F#"
- Built to Spill: "Velvet Waltz"
- The Dodos: "Joe's Waltz"
- Fiona Apple: "Waltz (Better Than Fine)"
- Queen: "The Millionaire Waltz" from A Day At The Races (1976)
- Willie Nelson: "Sad Songs and Waltzes," on his 1973 album "Shotgun Willie".
- Devin Townsend: The last section of his song "Processional," entitled "Infinite Waltz" from the "Christeen + 4 Demos" EP
- The Seatbelts: "Waltz for Zizi", from the album Cowboy Bebop
- The Stranglers : "Waltzinblack" from the album "The Gospel According to the Meninblack" (1981)
- Tom Waits: "Old Shoes" from the album Closing Time (1973).
- Austrian folk dancing
- Polska (dance)
- Waltz (dance)
- Anon. 2002. "Waltz". The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, second edition, edited by Barry Dean Kernfeld, 3 vols. 2002. London: Macmillan Publishers; New York: Grove’s Dictionaries. ISBN 1561592846
- Kemp, Peter. 2001. "Strauss". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
- Kernfeld, Barry. 2002. "Beat". The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, second edition, edited by Barry Dean Kernfeld, 3 vols. 2002. London: Macmillan Publishers; New York: Grove’s Dictionaries. ISBN 1561592846
- Lamb, Andrew. 2001. "Waltz". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
- Kennedy, Michael (ed.). 2006. "Waltz". The Oxford Dictionary of Music, second edition, revised, associate editor, Joyce Bourne. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198614593