Chopsticks (music)

Chopsticks (music)

"Chopsticks" (original name "The Celebrated Chop Waltz") is a simple, extremely well known waltz for the piano. It was written in 1877 by the British composer Euphemia Allen under the pseudonym Arthur de Lulli.[1] Allen, who was the sister of a music publisher, was supposedly only sixteen when she composed the piece, with arrangements for solo and duet. The title Chop Waltz comes from Allen's specification that the melody be played in two-part harmony with both hands held sideways, little fingers down, striking the keys with a chopping motion. This name suggests the piece should be played in 3/4 (waltz) metre, although it is also commonly heard with the stresses as in 6/8 time.

An equivalent of this rudimentary two-finger piano exercise was known in Russia in duple meter as "tati-tati" or the "Cutlet Polka". This version alternates the notes between the hands, as follows—


—rather than playing them at the same time in harmony.

A group of Russian composers — Alexander Borodin, César Cui, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Anatoly Lyadov, and Nikolai Shcherbachov (with a modest addition by Franz Liszt) — collaboratively composed four-hand piano variations on this theme for Borodin's daughter Gania. (Modest Mussorgsky did not participate, thinking that the composition would be meaningless.) The original edition of this collection dates from 1879 under the title Paraphrases; over the next several years it was expanded to a set of 24 variations and 17 other pieces.

In the highly praised 1946 William Wyler film The Best Years of Our Lives, a story chronicling the difficulties facing returning servicemen from overseas, the famous song composer Hoagy Carmichael performs a duet of "Chopsticks" with Harold Russell, who played the part of a World War II Navy veteran who lost both of his hands in combat, winning two Academy Awards. He played the simple piece (including variations) with Hoagy taking the lower part. Mr. Russell's hooks that served as hands seemingly did not deter him from delivering a superb rendering of the tune, complete with a final glissando up the keyboard.

The Celebrated Chop Waltz is sometimes confused with Der Flohwalzer (the Flea Waltz), which in the UK is also known by the name Chopsticks.

See also

  • Heart and Soul (1938 song)


External links

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