The Trois Valses, Op. 64 (published in 1847) were the last set of such works to be published during Frédéric Chopin's lifetime and were among the very last works sketched by his prodigious pen before his disease rendered further work impossible. Each of the three is among the shortest of his entries in the waltz form, making them entirely unsuitable for effective use in the ballroom, a use that at this stage in his life, would have been unthinkable to the composer. They are, rather than actual dances, dance-poems that reflect the weakened composer's attitudes from three very different points of view. It is as if Chopin's latter-day musical personality were put through a prism, with the light of the resulting, rather distinct persona cast upon three separate sheets of music-paper.
The Valse in D flat major, Op. 64/1, popularly known as the "Minute Waltz," is the only of the three which could conceivably be followed by mortal feet (it provides less opportunity for soloistic rubato than either of its companions). It must certainly not be played at such speed that it would actually be completed within a minute's time! Because the work is the technically most conquerable of all Chopin's waltzes, this work has lost some of its freshness through uncounted performances by pianists of lesser skill. It is, nevertheless, a work of enduring charm. A spinning little melodic cell (the pitches A flat, B flat, C, and the raised fourth scale degree, G natural), at first a seemingly rambling, aimless fragment, works its way seamlessly into the primary melody of this tiny work (only four pages, and Molto vivace at that). The cantabile of the middle section is Chopin at his most graceful.
More subdued (and strikingly Slavic in tone, with undercurrents of mazurka-rhythm mingling with the characteristic waltz figure) is the Valse in C sharp minor, Op. 64/2, that follows. Although the opening is marked Tempo giusto, one hardly ever hears this work played without a heavy dose of rubato. The "veiled melancholy," as Huneker called it, of the primary melody is unrivalled among Chopin's works. The sad protagonist is called to the dance floor by a spinning passage in running eighth notes (which returns two times throughout the piece, each time its tiny antecedent-consequent phrase pair being stated twice), while the piu lento, D flat major middle section offers some consolation.
Chopin's final waltz, the Valse in A flat major, Op. 64/3, is a piece of delicately-poised, Moderato-tempo beauty. It offers neither the whirling glee of Op. 64, No. 1, nor the melancholy of Op. 64, No. 2, but rather a musical item in which the more pure expression of perfect structural and harmonic balance is paramount. The central section (in C major) is a dialogue between two melodic voices.