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The introduction, six waltzes and finale are played without a break. The very fast, agitated F minor introduction leads into the melancholic first waltz, which has echoes of both café and ballroom and becomes more fretful as it proceeds. The second waltz (Presto, volante), played with a light touch and sparsely accompanied, hurries us into the F major third (Andante semplice), whose melodic intimacy and apparent simplicity over quietly sophisticated harmonies, though rising to an unexpectedly desolate central climax, mimic Ravel better than any quotation. No 4 (Allegro, vigoroso) is a choppy, energetic dance vanishing in an upward spiral of triplets. No 5 (Allegretto, preciso, in F minor again) at first pits pizzicato viola against a simple accompaniment in the pianist’s left hand but soon opens out into a kind of hesitant firefly serenade, linking at last into the C major sixth waltz (Lento, intimo). Here the memorial function and deeply elegiac vein that ultimately underpin the entire work become most delicately, stylishly explicit. The finale, however, banishes these shadows in a concluding waltz-fantasy that intermingles several themes, including reminiscences of previous waltzes, and that eventually returns us to the unquiet mood and music of the introduction, as Benjamin closes the circle with a defiant gesture of dismissal.
from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2014