Hyperion Records

Valse nonchalante, Op 110
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Saint-Saëns was writing waltzes even before his hands were big enough to play them. Among his published works, however, there are only seven piano waltzes, beginning with the Menuet et Valse in 1872 and ending with four examples so attractively varied—Valse mignonne, Valse nonchalante, Valse langoureuse and Valse gaie—that, although they were written and published separately over a period of sixteen years, they could have been intended as an informal kind of series.

The composer’s own favourite seems to have been Valse nonchalante, which he orchestrated in 1913 for a ballerina called Napierkowska. ‘She’s not a Russian dancer’, he explained, ‘she’s a Parisienne with a Polish grandfather. She has great talent and amazing suppleness.’ Dancing the Valse nonchalante—with its relaxed tempo and seductive melodic style reminiscent of the Parisian café-concert waltz, its fluid D flat major harmonies and its echoes of Chopin in the more agitated sections—Mlle Napierkowska must have been perfectly cast. She might even have been talented enough to compensate for the inevitable absence in the orchestral arrangement of the discreet pedal-effect sonorities to be heard towards the end of the piano version.

from notes by Gerald Larner © 2009

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