Sixteen Waltzes, Op. 39 (Brahms)

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Johannes Brahms

Sixteen Waltzes, Op. 39 is a set of 16 short waltzes for piano written by Johannes Brahms. They were composed in 1865, and published two years later, dedicated to the music critic Eduard Hanslick.[1]


These waltzes were written for piano four hands (i.e. duet), and were also arranged for piano solo by the composer, in two different versions – difficult and simplified. The three versions were published at the same time, and sold well, contrary to the composer's expectations.

The waltzes were written while the composer lived in Vienna, a city where he would permanently settle in 1872.[2] They were intended as a tribute to the waltz dance form which had become especially fashionable in his adopted city.[2]


In the solo versions, some of the keys were altered from the original duet version (the last four in the difficult version and No. 6 in the easy version). Waltz Number 15 in A major (or A-flat major) has acquired a life of its own. An arrangement of five of the waltzes (Nos. 1, 2, 11, 14, and 15) for two pianos, four hands was published after the composer's death.

Almost all of the waltzes are in a recapitulating binary form. For each waltz, the first half moves to the dominant, the relative major, or a substitute key. Then, the second half begins with a developmental passage that leads back to the main theme and the tonic.[2]

In 1984, critic Edward Rothstein said that Joseph Smith "made a compelling case for taking them seriously as a unified cycle."[3]

List of the waltzes plus audio[edit]

The 16 waltzes listed here are played by Martha Goldstein:

No. 01 in B major Tempo giusto (1:02)
No. 02 in E major (1:32)
No. 03 in G-sharp minor (1:02)
No. 04 in E minor Poco sostenuto (1:35)
No. 05 in E major Grazioso (1:10)
No. 06 in C-sharp major Vivace
(C major in the easy solo version) (1:07)
No. 07 in C-sharp minor Poco più Andante (2:12)
No. 08 in B-flat major (1:40)
No. 09 in D minor (1:26)
No. 10 in G major (0:32)
No. 11 in B minor (1:28)
No. 12 in E major (1:20)
No. 13 in C major
(B major in the more difficult solo version) (0:48)
No. 14 in A minor
(G-sharp minor in the more difficult solo version
and the two-piano version) (1:34)
No. 15 in A major
(A-flat major in the more difficult solo version
and the two-piano version) (1:28)
No. 16 in D minor
(C-sharp minor in the more difficult solo version) (1:01)


  1. ^ Palmer, John. “Waltzes for piano, four hands, Op. 39 (1865)” in All Music Guide to Classical Music: The Definitive Guide to Classical Music, p. 201 (Chris Woodstra, Gerald Brennan, and Allen Schrott eds., Hal Leonard Corporation, 2005). Also available at Sixteen Waltzes, Op. 39 at AllMusic
  2. ^ a b c Todd, R. Larry. Nineteenth-Century Piano Music, p. 372 (Routledge, 2013)
  3. ^ Edward Rothstein, "Music: Joseph Smith," The New York Times, Mar 29, 1984, p. C28

External links[edit]