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Episode 84: Chopin's Melancholy Waltz

Waltz in A minor, Op. 34, No. 2

rc-melancholy-200When a drunken patron asks Judy Garland to "Sing Melancholy Baby!" in the movie "A Star is Born", it gave fresh legs to one of the most popular songs of the 20th century, and inaugurated one of the most hackneyed requests ever to confront a cabaret singer.

But it there’s any composer who truly KNEW Melancholy, baby, it was Fryderyk Chopin. At least, his music – especially his Waltz in A minor, seems, to trigger that response from anyone listening.

Here’s one description: “A piece full of melancholy, gloom and grief, expressed in mournful simplicity.” Another: “The performer reveals the depth and melancholy of Chopin's waltz, rather than its lightness.” Chopin’s 19th-century biographer, Frederick Niecks wrote,

“The composer evidently found pleasure in giving way to this delicious languor, in indulging in these melancholy thoughts full of sweetest, tenderest loving and longing.”

What's the source of this abject adjective? Evidently, Chopin himself, who took some satisfaction from its melancholy measures. Countess Elizabieta Chermetieff, recalled an 1842 performance: “Chopin played exquisitely his Valse melancolique. His playing is out of this world, something airborne, misty; one imagines angels when listening to this music.”

And maybe, somewhere, the angels are listening to Chopin and Judy Garland sharing some beautiful melancholy together. - Frank Dominguez & Benjamin K. Roe


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Radio Chopin Episode 84: Chopin's Melancholy Waltz

Waltz in A minor, Op. 34, No. 2

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