This piece is based on the clever and winding melody from the Waltz #2 from Dimitri Shostakovich‘s Suite for Variety Orchestra.
In a fun bit of music trivia, this piece was long mislabeled as the “lost” Suite for Jazz Orchestra #2, and was even recorded by Riccardo Chailly and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under that name. The real jazz suite that was lost during World War 2 was rediscovered in 1999, setting the record straight.
The name variety orchestra is a better fit than jazz orchestra because the group includes a harp, celeste, and accordion in addition to a saxophone section. This suite seems to be the only piece Shostakovich wrote that included an accordion, and holds a special place in the hearts of accordion players world wide.
Shostakovich solidified his place as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century with his remarkable output of symphonies, concerti, string quartets, and piano music. I was very surprised to learn that in addition to all of his music written for the stage, he also wrote a significant amount of music for the screen.
With 25 film scores over his career, it seems oddly fitting that his music would spread to modern ears due to the film industry.
The great movie maker Stanley Kubrick used this waltz in his 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut. Check out the opening scene below. (Disclaimer: There is a naked butt in this video! Luckily it’s a nice butt, shown tastefully)
I am such a sucker for the twists and turns of Shostakovich melodies. This waltz is graceful and uplifting with an underbelly of creepy and sinister. The sounds of the variety orchestra give the tune a public dance hall feel, and when the piece hits its climax I can almost see a room full of happy Russians dancing and singing together. Nostrovia!
When the energy dissolves and the trombone takes over the melody, it’s easy to imagine a drunken gentleman making his way off of the dance floor for a bathroom break.
Like all waltzes, this song sounds best if you can feel the pulse in a big one instead of quick three. Phrase toward the downbeats and strive to have some fun as you dance from note to note.
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