- 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, widely 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.
A group of Russian composers—Alexander Borodin, César Cui, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Anatoly Lyadov—collaboratively composed three-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 cinema and television
The first three Pooch the Pup cartoons used "Chopsticks" as their opening music.
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.
In the 1952 Stanley Kramer film production The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, co-written by Dr. Seuss, the boys play Chopsticks toward the end of the dream sequence, after Dr. Terwilliker is dragged away and before the atomic "music fix" blows up.
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).
In the 1972 episode of Columbo 'Etude in Black' Columbo plays chopsticks as a way to get under the skin of the pompous murderer/conductor Alex Benedict (John Casavetes).
The Celebrated Chop Waltz is sometimes confused with Der Flohwalzer (the Flea Waltz), which in the UK is also known by the name Chopsticks.
An equivalent of this rudimentary two-finger piano exercise was known in Russia in duple meter as "tati-tati" or the "Cutlet Polka". This version alternates the notes between the hands, rather than playing them at the same time in harmony.
- Heart and Soul (1938 song)
- Margo Guryan, "The Chopsticks Variations" (2009 album)
- Blinded by the Light; the Manfred Mann's Earth Band version of this song contains Chopsticks
- "Sunday Morning", a hit by The Bolshoi, used a misplayed Chopsticks on its coda.
- "The Celebrated Chop Waltz". IMSLP. Retrieved 2010-05-15.
- Downing, Patrick (24 February 2011). "The Origin of "Chopsticks"". www.westmusic.com. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
- "Chopsticks with Variations (Thompson, John Sylvanus) - IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library: Free Public Domain Sheet Music". imslp.org. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
- The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T, YouTube