Valses nobles et sentimentales

This sequence of eight waltzes was written originally for piano in 1911. In 1912 Ravel orchestrated them to form the score of the ballet Adélaïde, ou le langage des fleurs, and this version was first played as an orchestral suite under its original title in 1914.

The title makes references to the Valses nobles and Valses sentimentales by Schubert, and Ravel further explained his intentions: "Le titre de Valses nobles et sentimentales indique assez mon intention de composer une chaîne de valses à l'example de Schubert. À la virtuosité qui faisait le fond de Gaspard de la nuit succède une écriture nettement plus clarifiée, qui durcit l'harmonie et accuse les reliefs de la musique." ( Ravel, [1938]). At the head of the score, he placed a quotation from a favourite poet, Henri de Régnier: "Le plaisir délicieux et toujours nouveau d'une occupation inutile".

The first performance of the piano version was given on 9th May 1911 by the composer and pianist Louis Aubert, to whom the work is dedicated, at the Société Musicale Indépendante in the Salle Gaveau. At this concert the names of the composers were withheld from the audience, who were invited to make their own identifications. When the Valses were played, there were hoots of protest from the audience, perhaps because of their unclassical harmonies, and some people attributed the work to Satie or Kodaly. "Les Valses nobles et sentimentales furent exécutées pour la première fois, au milieu de protestations et des huées, au concert sans nom d'auteur de la S.M.I. Les auditeurs votaient pour l'attribution de chaque morceau. La paternité des Valses me fut reconnue - à une faible majorité. La septième me paraît la plus caractéristique." (Ravel, [1938]).

The last waltz allows the music to fade away in a delicate farewell to the ones which have gone before - in a very different manner from the apocalyptic ending of Ravel's subsequent return to the form, in La Valse.

In 1913 Ravel made a piano roll recording of the work.

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