The Skaters' Waltz: subtle harmonies of romantic dance music by Emile Waldteufel
Ice Skaters at the Bois de Boulogne by Léon Joseph Voirin
Les Patineurs Valse or the Skaters' Waltz is arguably the most famous of Émile Waldteufel's works. A late Romantic French composer, Émile Waldteufel served as court pianist and directed the orchestra at state balls and other events in Paris during that time.
Impressed by the skating rink in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, the composer realistically expressed in music the sliding movements of skaters surrounded by winter nature, creating an immortal masterwork that would be familiar to many listeners due to its very frequent use in films, TV shows, and video games.
Émile Waldteufel came from an extremely musical family that gave him an excellent primary education, allowing him to enter the Conservatoire de Paris which he was later forced to leave due to financial difficulties. This led him to work at the musical instrument factory, though his hard labor did not interrupt his bustling creativity. During that period, the first waltzes published by him at his own expenses were able to grant the composer relative financial stability, steady growth in popularity, and new prestigious appointments.
Listen to Émile Waldteufel's Les Patineurs Valse (The Skaters' Waltz) performed by Neville Marriner with Academy of St. Martin in the Fields:
Throughout his life, Waldteufel composed over 250 waltzes and other dance music, gaining recognition not only in France but also in England where his works were often performed in Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria.
When comparing Waldteufel's music with the works of his great German contemporary Johann Strauss II, also known as the Waltz King, musicologists note that the French maestro skillfully mixed melodic elements of German, French, and Spanish schools using subtle harmonies and gentle phrases, in great contrast to Strauss's more robust and pragmatic approach.