Was It A Polka Or A Waltz?

Cover of the sheet music for ' The Celebrated Chop Waltz' by Arthur De Lulli.
The Celebrated Chop Waltz, by Arthur De Lulli. 1

The piano piece “Chopsticks” was originally named The Celebrated Chop Waltz, presumably written by Euphemia Allen in 1877—who was thought to have been 16 at the time—and published under the pseudonym Arthur de Lulli. The name Chop Waltz refers to how the piece was to be played, as she wrote at the top of the sheet: “This part (primo part of the duet) must be played with both hands turned sideways, the little fingers lowest, so that the movements of the hands imitate the chopping from which this waltz gets its name.” [ 2 ]

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The Celebrated Chop Waltz for 2 Pianos / 8 Hands. 3

Variations of Chopsticks have been composed almost from its inception. Ostensibly, in 1879, it was American Publishers who changed the original name.

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Liberace Plays Chopsticks. 4

Coincidently (or is it?), four bars of a piece (also in 1877) were written or played by the daughter of Russian Romantic composer, Alexander Borodin (1833 – 1887). It was named The Cotelettten Polka from the French word côtelette, meaning “cutlet” or “chop.”

The four bars are similar, but far from identical, to the usual opening notes of Chopsticks; the descending thirds are not included.
James J. Fuld from The Book of World-famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk, 2000 5

Intriguing to think that a small, ubiquitous bit of music has such a rich background.

End of Article

Page Sources

Jujimufu.  "The Celebrated Chop Waltz, by Arthur De Lulli."  Scanned from First Edition Reprint.  IMSLP.  International Music Score Library Project, 19 July 2007.  Web.  1 Oct. 2015.  CC BY-SA 4.0.
Downing, Patrick.  "The Origin of ‘Chopsticks'"  West Music.  West Music Company, 24 Feb. 2011.  Web.  1 Sept. 2015.
shirley.  "[라 로제] La Rose - E Allen, Arr. EunSoo Kim : 'The Celebrated Chop Waltz' for 2 Pianos 8 Hands."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 20 Sept. 2014.  Web.  1 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
pianoplaylist.  "Liberace Chopsticks."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 14 July 2008.  Web.  1 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
Fuld, James J.  The Book of World-Famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk.  Fifth Edition, Revised and Enlarged.  New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 2000: p. 170.  Google Books.  Web.  1 Sept. 2015
Additional References:
  • Moon, Krystan R.  Yellowface:  Creating the Chinese in American Popular Music and Performance, 1850s – 1920s.  New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2005.  Google Books.  Web. 1 Sept. 2015.
  • Studwell, William Emmett.  The Americana Song Reader.  New York:  The Haworth Press, Inc., 1997.  Google Books.  Web.  1 Sept. 2015.