If the Moderato introduction is more effective in the Berlioz version—where the solo cello and the answering woodwind might seem to offer a more eloquent interpretation of the gentleman’s increasingly pressing invitation and the lady’s correspondingly warmer replies—the dance itself is highly idiomatic piano music. Usually described as a rondo, the Allegro vivace is actually a complex construction including three waltzes, each with its main and subsidiary themes. The main theme is the vigorous upward arpeggio that plunges the dancers into the first waltz, which also includes a more gentle idea with mazurka-like displaced rhythmic accents and, before the return of the main theme, an episode of keyboard bravura. Both the second waltz, beginning with a delightful rocking melody picked out on the first beat of each bar, and the third waltz, based on a minor-key variant of the main theme, are shorter than the first but no less tuneful. Surprisingly, the one passage of development is devoted to the second theme of the opening waltz (now without its mazurka accents) rather than the main theme—which is being held in reserve for an exhilarating recapitulation and a brilliant coda. The end of the waltz is not quite the end of the piece: in the Moderato closing bars the dancers exchange parting compliments with a nice appreciation of musical as well as social form.
from notes by Gerald Larner © 2009