La Valse by the French impressionist Maurice Ravel is often dubbed a “dance on the volcano”. Next to Bolero, it is the composer’s most famous work, which he wrote as a tribute to Johann Strauss II, the King of the Viennese waltz. La Valse is probably Ravel’s most unexpected composition, which reveals the unprecedented power and energy of romanticism. The composer seems to have taken a fresh look at the genre of waltz that was beginning to disintegrate at the time. La Valse exists as both orchestral and piano versions written by the composer. He described the work with the following preface to 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.”
The work begins with mysterious, gloomy sounds, followed by fragments of waltz rhythms and melodies. The music fills with rich and colourful chords, piquant dissonances that develop into a radiant Viennese waltz brimming with glowing passages. The climax of the work reaches ecstasy, erupting almost as a volcano.
Ravel’s stricking work is performed by two prominent pianists, well-known outside their countries: Professor Petras Geniušas, a recipient of the Lithuanian National Culture and Art Prize, and his former student, Romanian virtuoso Daniel Ciobanu.
PIANO: DANIEL CIOBANU
PIANO: PETRAS GENIUŠAS