Emīls Dārziņš (1875–1910) is among the most brilliant and popular   Latvian composers as well as an outstanding music critic, teacher, and conductor. His legacy is not extensive, yet almost every composition is well known and used: 19 solo songs for voice and piano, 17 a cappella choir songs, of which several have acquired the status of essential and well-loved elements of Latvian culture. Interestingly, the composer was not happy with the song genre as a fulfillment of his dreams. He wished to express himself in larger form yet was aware that he "lacked technique for an orchestra." His work on an opera was cut short by his untimely and tragic death. In the symphony genre, the composer managed to create only four miniatures: "Lyrical Fantasy", "Vientuļā priede" ("Lonely Pine"), "Mazā svīta" ("Little Suite"), and "Melanholiskais valsis" ("Melancholy Waltz"). All of these works were highly praised by the contemporaries, yet only the last has been preserved: after being unjustly accused of plagiarism, Dārziņš destroyed "Vientuļā priede"; "Mazā svīta" and "Lyrical Fantasy" met a similar fate.

The sole instrumental survivor, "Melanholiskais valsis" (1904) has become one of the most popular symphonic pieces of Latvian music. It premiered in Majori, in the fall of 1905 (conductor Jurjānu Juris).     In "Melanholiskais valsis" the noble spirit so characteristic of Dārziņš’s work is combined with simplicity or expression and sincerity of feeling, elevating a utilitarian genre to high art.  The seven-minute long waltz in A-major (rondo with two episodes and a coda) justifies its title only in part because the overall feeling is one of light reverie, with some unquiet and anxiety stealing into the F-sharp minor episode.

According to writer Jānis Poruks’s wife, the idea for the composition had come to Dārziņš during a visit to her parents’ country house. Remaining alone after sitting and talking with Poruks in a gazebo covered in greenery all night, he had seen St Mary appear in the corner of the gazebo accompanied by strains of music. In the morning he had told Poruks about his vision and then sat down at the piano to try to imitate the music: it had been the beginning part of "Melanholiskais valsis".

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