The Valses nobles et sentimentales is a suite of waltzes composed by French composer Maurice Ravel. The piano version was published in 1911, and an orchestral version was published in 1912. The suite contains an eclectic blend of Impressionist and Modernist music, which is especially evident in the orchestrated version.
Composition and background
Ravel was intrigued by the waltz genre. By 1906 he had started composing what later would become La Valse, in which he tried to epitomise everything this popular genre encompassed. In 1911, prior to the 1919 publication of La Valse, he published the piano version of his suite of eight Valses nobles et sentimentales. The work was first performed on May 8, 1911 by Louis Aubert, to whom the work is dedicated, at a performance of new works where the composers were not identified. It was sponsored by the société musicale indépendante, to promote the works of more adventurous composers, without "burdening" critics with the attached labels of authorship. This was in theory supposed to encourage the critics to evaluate what they actually heard rather than simply judging the piece by the name of the composer. The anonymous work generated a disturbing chorus of boos and cat calls. Many were unerved by the acerbic harmonic palette that he employed. Some even thought the piece was a parody. When the votes were tallied, the nominated composers included Satie, Koechlin, d'Indy and even Kodály, but " a minute majority," Ravel recalled, "ascribed the paternity of the Valses to me."
The following year an orchestrated version of the Valses was published. This work indicated that the composer wanted to create a "clearer" orchestral sound than had been the case for the preceding Gaspard de la nuit. The orchestrated ballet version of the Valses Nobles et Sentimentales was named Adélaïde ou le langage des fleurs (Adelaide: The Language of Flowers) by Ravel.
That Ravel wanted to identify with Franz Schubert is clear. As he said himself:
- The title sufficiently indicates my intention to compose a succession of waltzes, after Schubert's example.
However, unlike Schubert (who actually wrote separately-grouped noble and sentimental waltzes that, while originally published separately, are frequently published together), Ravel did not differentiate the noble waltzes from the sentimental ones. Other than the name and the waltz form, there is little similarity between Ravel's and Schubert's works.
The waltzes are marked as follows. A typical performance of all of the waltzes takes 15 minutes.
- Assez lent
- Assez animé
- Presque lent
- Moins vif
- Epilogue: lent