A Waltz by Schubert

Recently my fiancé and I moved to a beautiful house and this has meant that for the first time in a number of years my music collection has been dusted off and sorted and I seem to be constantly discovering new music!

This is combined with deciding to bring my piano skills back up to the standard they were before I left for uni!  As a result, I’ve been playing through some music and have discovered a beautiful waltz by Franz Schubert.  It’s fairly simple, although I’m still having a little trouble with it because my hands keep dropping into piano accordion mode.

About the composer

Personally, I’ve never really gotten into Schubert before.  I was always very much interested in Baroque and Renaissance music when I was studying music, and more recently in English folk tunes, both traditional and non-traditional.  So this is a journey of discovery for me.  Schubert was composing at the end of the Classical period and into the beginning of the Romantic period. My source of information about Schubert comes primarily from a book I’ve had a while – “The Great Composers” by Wendy Thompson.  It’s a lovely little book with a surprising amount of information in!

This book tells me a little about him.  He was Austrian and was born in Vienna in 1797.  His father taught all his children to play an instrument and probably nurtured the young Franz’s musical ability as best he could.  He won a scholarship to the Imperial Seminary as a choir boy, and had daily music lessons and played in the school’s orchestra.

He composed many works throughout his life, from symphonies to string quintets, to the famous piano quintet “The Trout” to songs and beautiful piano music (such as the waltz I’ll eventually get round to telling you about!).  Some of his greatest works were composed while suffering from syphilis including Symphony No.8, the “Unfinished” and the “Wanderer” fantasy (Op.15 D. 760) for piano.

Schubert composed until the end of his life in 1828.  He suffered from depression and illness for the last four years of his life and some great works came out of this period of his life including the Ninth Symphony, a large amount of chamber music for wind and string instruments and some lovely piano pieces.  In the final few months he composed a number of songs among other things, one of which I remember studying for my music AS level.  It was the extremely haunting “Der Doppelganger” in which a man sees his double and his death is foretold, I found it a very depressing piece to study, but beautiful in its comparative simplicity to some of his piano works.

Throughout the last couple of days I’ve been listening to a few of Schubert’s pieces and I’m becoming more taken with his music.  I still find Der Doppelganger haunting and depressing, but I’m totally moved by the Wanderer Fantasy!

About The Viennese Waltz

A waltz is a dance form made famous by Strauss in particular in the early romantic era.  It generally has three beats to a bar, although in certain folk dancing traditions I have known five, eight and even eleven step waltzes!  According to my Oxford Companion to Music, it probably has its origins in the German Landler.  The companion also says that there were objections to the waltz when it came in with quotes such as [the waltz is] “a riotous German dance of modern invention.”

The Viennese Waltz has a grace, lightness and elegance which the piece I’ve been learning definitely has!  The characteristic rhythm of a waltz is often referred to as the “um-pah-pah”, defining the beats in the bar, and hence when the dancers should place their feet.  Waltzes are often considered to be very romantic dances due to the smooth nature of their melodies and style of the dance.

Personally I’m a huge fan of waltzes, folk waltzes in particular – of which I’ll discuss more about in a later post.

About The Piece – Waltz in B minor, D.145, No.6

This beautiful little Viennese Waltz has an elegance and simplicity about it that I like.  I don’t have the ability level for fancy flourishes, and I’m a big fan of simple harmonies and chord progressions, this waltz encompasses this simplicity with a gentle, lilting and interesting tune.

I found this in my copy of Pianist Issue 63, I don’t think I’ve actually got round to playing it before now!  The right hand tune took very little learning, although the very end still takes me by surprise although it makes perfect sense as a melody!  The left hand took a little more learning because my left hand has got used to the piano accordions circle of fifths layout!  Its still being learnt, and I suspect given a little more time I’ll be able to get this sounding nicer, but for now, I leave you with a little recording of this delightful waltz.

I also apologise as the recording is a MIDI recording, which means that although the timing and notes are true to what I played, you cannot get a sense of the tone of the piano and how it sounded.  At a later date when I’ve got a better recording means, you can have a substantially better recording!  For now, please enjoy this little waltz!

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