Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/401

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WALTZ. The origin of the Waltz is wrapped in even more obscurity than is usually the case with the best-known dances. The immense popularity which it has achieved in the iQth century a popularity which has had the effect of almost banishing every other dance has given rise to a dispute as to the historical genesis of the waltzj into which national antipathies have to a certain extent entered. It would have been thought that French writers could not ignore the evidence of a German origin given by the name waltz, derived from waltzen, to turn ; but in the face of the etymology of the word an ingenious theory has been invented by which it is sought to prove that the dance and the name were originally borrowed by Germany from France, and then reintroduced, as a foreign in- vention, from the former to the latter country.

This theory apparently was first propounded by Castil Blaze, and has been adopted by Fe*tis, Littre", and Larousse. The French account of the origin of the waltz is that the dance is a descendant of the Volta known to the Eliza- bethans as Lavolta a dance described by Thoinot Arbeau in his Orche'sographie, and said to have been a native of Provence, whence it was intro- duced into Paris under Louis VII. It remained in fashion up to the i6th century, at which period it was (according to Larousse) introduced into Germany, the name Volta being changed into Walzer. The obvious Italian origin of the word ' volta ' has been overlooked by the French writers. The German authorities, on the other hand, trace the waltz back to the Drehtanz, or turning dance, a modification of the old form of dances which (like the English country dances) were danced by couples standing face to face, or holding one another by one hand only.

Great confusion exists in the German accounts of these early dances. The Volta, the Langaus, and the Allemande are all mentioned as being the ancestors of the waltz, but none of these seems to be satisfactorily connected with the modern dance. That the volta and the spring-tanz were identi- cal seems pretty certain : in both the indecency of the performance seems to have been a cha- racteristic feature, as a comparison of the de- scriptions in Thoinot Arbeau's Orche'sographie and Johann von Miinster's 'Traktat vom un- gottseligen Tanz' (1594) clearly shows ; but this feature is different from that which was held up to reprobation in the waltz in later days by Lord Byron and other English writers on its introduc- tion into England. The German dances, like the French, in the I5th and i6th centuries, were either of a solemn or slow character, or consisted in unseemly leapings and jumpings; as Chapman in his 'Alphonsus Emperour of Germany' makes one of his characters say:

We Germans have no changes in our dances, An Almain and an upspring that is all.

In course of time the latter became so objection- able that it was not only preached and written against, but was made the subject of local edicts, notably in the towns of N urn berg, Amberg, and Meissen. The Almain or Allemande was intro- VOL. IV. PT. 4.



��duced into France after the conquest of Alsace by Louis XIV., but the dance had nothing in common with the modern waltz, and the spring- tanz, which, as has been mentioned, was identical with the volta, no longer occurs in the 1 7th and 1 8th centuries. This break in the imaginary genealogy of the waltz has not been made clear by the writers who have treated the subject. It is generally admitted that the modern dance first made its appearance about the year 1780, and the only attempt at connecting the old and the new dances is the suggestion that because the song ' Ach du lieber Augustin' (which was one of the first tunes to which waltzes were danced) was addressed to a wandering musician who lived in 1670, therefore the modern dance was contemporary with the tune. The attempts at tracing the waltz from such a widely spread dance as the volta or spring-tanz have led to further confusion with regard to the humble Landler or Schleifer, which is its real ancestor. That it springs from a class of country dances, and not from the ancient stock of the volta, must be obvious upon many grounds. The dance itself is first heard of in Bohemia, Austria, and Bavaria in the latter part of the i8th century : in Bohe- mia it seems first to have become fashionable, since on March 18, 1785, it was forbidden by an Im- perial edict as ' sowohl der Gesundheit schadlich, als auch der Sunden halber sehr gefahrlich,' in spite of which it found its way to Vienna, and was danced in the finale to Act ii. of Vicente Martin y Solar's ' Una Cosa rara ' by four of the principal characters (Lubino, Tita, Chita, and Lilla). On its first appearance in Vienna the music of the waltz was played quite slowly : the tempo in Martin's opera is marked Andante con moto, but in Vienna the character of the dance was changed, and a Geschwindwalzer was intro- duced which finally led to a Galoppwalzer in 2-4 time. But in spite of the changes that the dance underwent, what it was originally like can still be seen at any Austrian or Bavarian village festival at the present day, where it will be found, perhaps called a Landler or Schleifer, or some other local name, but still danced to the old slow rhythms which were imitated by Mozart, Beethoven, and (to a less degree) Schu- bert, in their waltzes written for the Viennese in the early days of the dance's fashionable career. Crabb Robinson's account of the manner in which he saw it danced at Frankfort in 1800 is interesting. ' The man places the palms of his hands gently against the sides of his partner, not far from the arm-pits. His partner does the same, and instantly with as much velocity as possible they turn round, and at the same time gradually glide round the room/ 1

In England the name and the tune of the dance made their first appearance about the year 1797. The collection of Preston's Country Dances pub- lished at that date contains 'the new German Waltz ' and the Princess of Wales's Waltz,' both of which are real waltz tunes, though how different the dances were may be gathered from


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