Valses nobles et sentimentales: an atypical collection of waltzes


Chuwen Wang
Andrew Villemez


By Chuwen Wang, Piano Performance

Advisor: Andrew Villemez

Abstract: Impressionism is a style or movement in painting that originates in France in the late nineteenth century, characterized by a concern with depicting the visual impression of the moment. Music created its own Impressionism, through works in which the sound depicts nuances, undefined atmospheres, and a more loose harmonic context. Maurice Ravel is one of the famous French composers in Impressionism. During this period, he forged for himself a language of his own that bears the stamp of his personality as unmistakably as any work of Bach or Chopin. Interested in the waltz as a musical genre, he composed Valse nobles et sentimentales, a suite of waltzes in 1911. Its title refers to two sets that Franz Schubert composed in 1820: the 12 Valses nobles (D. 969), and the 34 Valses sentimentales (D. 779). However, Ravel's composition is completely different from Schubert's. While Schubert's Waltzes are independent, separated pieces, the eight waltzes of Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales flow together in an uninterrupted dreamscape and shows a lot of unsolved dissonances. The first seven waltzes are distinct, but the eighth is a confluence, which is a combination of each theme from each waltz. In addition, Ravel combines the traditional 3/4 waltz meter with an impressionistic approach. In this presentation, I will demonstrate how Ravel has a unique approach in composing waltzes. The variety of tempos, metric accents, themes, and connections between each waltz contribute to depict an engaging dance scene in a completely new way, blending tradition and impressionism.


Podium & Piano (9:45-11:45 AM)