La Valse, by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) is amongst the French composer’s crown achievements and is widely performed as a solo piano, duo piano, and orchestral piece. The waltz itself is revealed slowly and mysteriously and is finally revealed in full majesty a few minutes into the work (2:28) . As the piece was originally conceived as a ballet, Ravel prefaced the score:
“Through whirling clouds, waltzing couples may be faintly distinguished. The clouds gradually scatter: one sees at letter A an immense hall peopled with a whirling crowd. The scene is gradually illuminated. The light of the chandeliers bursts forth at the fortissimo letter B. Set in an imperial court, about 1855.”
Truth is, when mom and I first sight-read the first few pages of this, our reaction was “what the hell.” French impressionism always takes a while to digest, but once we understood the meaning behind the piece, we instantly chose it to be our closer. Ravel has a way with building tension and mystery in a piece (9:20), and when it’s realized in a grand sweeping glissando (10:06) it’s just so satisfying to play and listen to.
We hope you enjoy the piece as much as we do.