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The Minute Waltz is the most famous of Chopin's waltzes and ranks among the best-loved pieces in the entire classical repertoire. Its sprightly mood and kinetic energy belie the composer's personal situation at the time of composition: his health was in serious decline and his relationship with novelist Aurore Dupin Dudevant, who wrote under the pseudonym of George Sand, was falling apart.
The theme of this waltz is its best-known feature. It begins as though hurriedly winding itself up; then, with the left hand anxiously maintaining the waltz rhythm, the right hand slithers elegantly upward and downward, finally resolving in quivering swirls of notes that ascend as they peak, then descend at the final climactic moment. The whole is held together by a little melodic cell and seems to shimmer in the hearing and before the eyes. This effervescent theme is perhaps indescribable, but that has not the deterred nickname-makers who have attached programmatic significance to the works of this determinedly abstract composer; the work is also known as the "Dog Waltz" because for some it suggests the image of a dog chasing its tail. (Legend has it that the waltz was inspired by Chopin's own pet.) The stately, singing middle section is more conventional, which is not to suggest that it is stale or hackneyed. Its nonchalance and relaxed manner provides the perfect contrast to the bustling energy of the opening theme. The piece closes with a restatement of its joyous and memorable initial creation.
Some of the work's popularity is due to its comparative technical simplicity; unlike much of Chopin's output, it is within reach of ambitious amateurs. Despite its nickname, the Minute Waltz lasts closer to two minutes in performance.
It has been arranged here for string quartet, with an optional bass part for use with string orchestra.
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