The four Valses-caprices
(1893/4) allow Fauré to exploit all of his improvisatory cunning to the full (Colette once described how Fauré and Messager loved to improvise duets, ‘rivalling each other in their sudden modulations and evasions of the tonic’—a revealing comment). More ‘caprice’ than ‘waltz’, all four examples (and particularly the enchanting third) somehow combine and extend the scintillating worlds of Chopin and Saint-Saëns waltzes, mocking a flat-footed three-in-a-bar before whirling us away in some of music’s most aerial virtuosity. Tirelessly exuberant when not basking in emotional languor, Fauré gives us variation first and theme second, developing such jocularity into music of ever increasing refinement in Nos 3 and 4. In No 3 a mere four bars are enough for him to allow the music to slide far away from the basic G flat tonality, a premonition of the central episode where the principle subject and an added bell-like motif are joined and sent soaring skywards into a rarefied harmonic region, an episode of astonishing suppleness and intricacy. Here, then, is lightness rather than levity, a luminous sporting with the keyboard.
from notes by Bryce Morrison © 1995