The Flea Waltz - the waltz that is not a waltz at all...

...because it is in 4/4 time instead of 3/4 time, the main characteristic of the waltz!



How the flea waltz got its name

Controversial, but still interesting, is the following story:

The flea waltz probably was composed by the East Frisian Ferdinand Alfred Gustav Loh in 1890.

He wrote in a letter to his cousin:

"Finished my "waltz" this morning. Outwardly it is small, but I have the feeling that I have put everything into it that I am only capable of. I've solemnly burned all my other compositions in the oven - the three symphonies, the opera and everything else."

Ferdinand Loh was sure that the big publishing houses will be fighting over this little work, because: "There has never been such a piece in the word."


He wrote about this little composition the first letter of his first name and surname and the title "waltz": F. Loh "Waltz". Due to a misunderstanding it became the "Flea Waltz", in German: "Floh-Walzer".

Why Loh called his piece "Waltz", is not clear, because the flea waltz is not a waltz at all. Anyway, the success he hoped for didn't come true, because all publishers rejected this miniature: "Your opus seems too strange to sell. Why not try a longer work?"


After his studies Ferdinand Loh settled down as a piano teacher in the province of England. All his efforts to publish his flea waltz were in vain. So he began to spread his little waltz by his piano students by demonstrating them how to play it. They imitated playing the piano waltz and showed it to others. In this way the flea waltz was known throughout Europe within 15 years and spread with incredible speed overseas. And this occurred, although nobody had ever seen the sheet music, because it even did not exist!


Already at that time this piano piece had separated from its composer and was called only "flea waltz". After all, no one wanted to believe Ferdinand Loh's authorship. How could it be that such a world-famous piano piece was composed by a piano teacher from the province of England?


Ferdinand Alfred Gustav Loh died in 1927, never being acknowledged by the music world. His last will was to be buried on the open sea, because - as he wrote in his last letter: "No gravestone shall remind of me. My waltz shall be my gravestone."


In France the flea waltz is called "Cotêlettes" (= "chops of meet"), in England "chopsticks", in Mexico "los changuitos" (= "little monkeys") and in Russia "sobadschij waltz" (= "dog waltz").