A couple of days ago I finally made the acquaintance of the little Chopin waltz you are going to hear. It's rather popular, at least on the sorts of UNpopular radio stations that play that sort of thing; and I think you can hear it bouncing around the walls of your local music school, too. Strange that my fingers had not gotten to know it before.
The first problem I noticed was that my edition had a choice between two different versions of the same waltz, so off I went to the interwebs to find out why. Then I found out that, like many popular pieces of unpopular music, this too had a nickname. It was called the "Farewell Waltz." What was that about, I wondered? Was Chopin saying farewell to his friends, farewell to the piano, farewell to life? All sorts of pleasantly Romantic tragedy seemed forthcoming.
It turns out that the second version of our little waltz was based on a manuscript which originated when Chopin was in Dresden, Germany. The first version came from a friend of Chopin's who published it after Chopin's death and isn't based on any known source from the composer which means I don't trust it farther than I can throw it. So I learned the second version.
Now, it so happens that my wife is in Dresden at the moment, doing dissertation research, while I am home in Illinois. So, if you are reading this, sweetie, consider this a sonic present from me to you. Also, don't read the next paragraph.
Apparently our friend Fred was engaged to a young lady in Dresden and decided he couldn't go through with it. So he gave her a waltz instead. Terribly Romantic. Nowadays people break up over the phone, or through email, or text messaging, but with Fred Chopin it was, "I can't marry you--here's a nice waltz. Bye." At least, that's what the Wikipedia had to say about it. Musical anecdotes are notoriously unreliable.
In any case, whatever mess another young artist may have made of his love life, we have a nice waltz to listen to now. And it probably won't take any longer to listen to than it did to read the foregoing. Enjoy!
Chopin: Waltz in Ab, op, 69 no. 1, "farewell"
Oh, one more thing. I have a little gig coming up to help raise money for the local symphony on Valentine's Day. I could play this Waltz and tell this little story. What do you think? Good idea, or very bad idea? I mean, break ups are a part of romance, too, aren't they? Or is that too much of a downer?
Maybe I should stick with Rachmaninoff.