Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is one of history’s most renowned classical music composers, with a collection of works rich in Russian character, folk influences, and romantic elements; this Waltz in E-flat shows those influences as well. While most frequently associated with ballets such as Swan Lake and the Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky had a clear talent and affinity for the waltz; many of his most popular pieces, among them this Opus 39 Waltz in E-flat, are in 3/4 time.
Tchaikovsky’s life, in contrast with simple and elegant melodies such as this Waltz in E-flat, was fraught with sadness and melancholy. We are richer in that he turned his personal pain into art; his pieces touch deep emotion in listeners. Although he was frequently criticized in his day for being either “too Russian” or “too European” by turns, he brought his audiences a fresh musical vision for his time. In today’s parlance, we’d say he challenged them to “think outside the dots,” beyond music that was purely nationalistic into something that transcended individual differences.
In this Waltz in E-flat, note the lilting “dance” tune as it moves over the solid harmonies as you play. You may feel like dancing even as you play it…but resist the urge! You’ll want to stay seated at the piano to enjoy the moments of harmonic tension, then resolution, as they move this lyrical piece toward its logical “singing” conclusion.