Great Waltzes

A few days back I was holding forth about how the invention of waltz (3/4 time) was one of the greatest changes in all music.  A little background:

[The] modern form of Waltz was born in suburbs of Vienna and mountain regions of Austria, and was created not for use by folk dancers, but for court. Before that time, all court dances were rigid, stately, solemn, procession-based, very tightly controlled, with complicated moves and timings. Waltz changed that with the introduction of free form dance with close position of dances, which immediately sparked revolt and scandals from traditional lovers of old ballroom dance.

Earlier classical waltzes were more a musical form than a dance, per se.  (Tchaikovsky’s Valse Sentimentale is a good example, with its many stops and starts.)

It’s the only dance I can actually do (having spent most of my time on the other side of the microphone), and I love it.  (As does New Wife, who was once a competitive ballroom dancer, and who makes Yer Humble Narrator look like a dancing elephant by comparison.)  The waltz is just plain sexy, in a way that dance forms (other than the tango) aren’t.

Some churches even banned their congregations from dancing the waltz, but then came Johann Strauss Jr., and it was all over.  (Here’s his Blue Danube, just as an example.  The long introduction, it was said, was put there so dancers could begin the pairing-off ritual without losing any dance time together.)

What about contemporary waltz tunes?  This was the subject of my discussion, wherein my friend said that the waltz was pretty much dead, and I disagreed vehemently.  Here are some examples:

Billy Joel — Piano Man

Eagles — Take It To The Limit

Led Zeppelin — Dazed and Confused  (!! the verse only, until it goes off the rails completely after two minutes and returns after three minutes of freakout)

…and let us not forget actor Sir Anthony Perkins Hopkins’s And The Waltz Goes On.

Your contributions in Comments


  1. 3 years ago wifey finally forced me to take dancing lessons so we could dance at our oldest son’s wedding. I got hooked. Waltzes are indeed fun, but you didn’t mention whether you danced the Viennese waltz, the International waltz or the American waltz, my favourite.

    I have found a liking for Country and Western waltzes, of which there are millions. My favourites:

    Tex Ritter has 3 good ones, Green Grow The Lilacs , Rye Whiskey and Streets of Laredo, the last one being kind of mournful.

    Multiple versions of Tennessee Waltz, my favourite by Floyd Cramer

    Plenty of good versions of Waltz Across Texas, my favourites by Ernest Tubb and Willie Nelson or Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline.

    Modern stuff too…
    Take It To The Limit by the Eagles
    I Dreamt I Dwelt In Marble Halls, Celtic Woman
    Funny Face, Donna Fargo
    Mull of Kintyre, McCartney and Wings

    As for your comment on Tango, bah, you’re just not doing it right.

  2. I learned to dance the Waltz with my father when I was about 10.. My feet on his. No music needed.

  3. Mull of Kintyre – Wings
    Yeah, Fred Z said it first, but it deserves a second mention.
    Open Arms – Journey
    Ballads and 3/4 time do go together.

  4. The Longer the Waiting by Josh Turner

    Older country music loved the 3/4 time, I think because of the Celtic roots of bluegrass/country music. That being said, most modern “country” artists think that 3/4 refers to the amount in the baggie rather than musical notation.

  5. Every father should teach his son(s) to dance, or have someone teach them. You don’t have to dance well, but you should do it. The kid will have the ladies lined up when the music starts.
    And oftentimes, one thing leads to another…

    1. For that reason, I once took dancing lessons at the YMCA. Waltz one Saturday, Foxtrot the next, Swing the one after that, and I forget what the fourth one was. I didn’t learn to dance anything. I learned S’Waltz-Trot. It worked OK when I dated the girl who danced like a horse, and I later took Swing dance lessons — at a Baptist Church, of all places — and finally learned to actually dance

      I am still mostly rhythmically challenged, so I have to ask someone. Is Tom Lehrer’s Wienerschitzel Waltz actually a waltz?

  6. Although not exactly modern, here’s an example the late iteration of the waltz by Franz Lehar. It’s The Merry Widow waltz. This film clip is from the the 1934 flick The Merry Widow with Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier. Sounds corny I know, but this was a pre-Hayes picture and it is rife with innuendo. The dance sequence in the clip was directed by Busby Berkeley and is as over the top as anything he ever did.

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