The attraction of this disc is its variety, a mix of
the familiar, such as Weber’s Invitation to the Waltz and those
by Chopin, Brahms and Liszt, with comparative rarities, in this case
three of them by Brazilian composers Mignone, Fernando, and Villa-Lobos
(all active in the 20th century), an apt choice by this talented
young Brazilian pianist.
The origins of the waltz go back to the Middle Ages
through the Austrian ländler, a rustic dance in triple time which
gradually found its way into the ballrooms of Society during the 17th
century. Its passage was no easy one, with the Times of July
1816 in the vanguard: ‘So long as this obscene display was confined
to prostitutes and adulteresses we did not think it deserving of notice,
but now that it is attempted to be forced on the respectable classes
of society by the civil examples of their superiors, we feel it a duty
to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion’.
Lanner and Strauss (the latter represented here by a technically demanding
arrangement of his famous Blue Danube Waltz by the Polish pianist
Adolf Schultz-Evler) boosted its popularity and by the time Chopin contributed
to the form, his music was said to be dances by the soul rather than
by the body. The striking thing about Chopin’s fruitful output for the
piano is its sheer diversity of forms, and he tended to write during
the summer months when free of a heavy teaching schedule. His melodies
are either rooted in the Italian bel canto (Ballades, Nocturnes
etc), or, in the case of dances, in Polish folk music. His waltzes date
from 1827 (when 17). The Waltz in A flat major Op.34 No.1 appeared in
1835 and is one of several to carry the title ‘Valse brillante’ for
after its whirling introduction comes its delightful melodies, and as
Schumann so aptly said, ‘Such a wave of life flows through them, that
they seem to have been improvised in the dancing room’. Op.69 No.1 Valse
de l’adieu or Farewell Waltz is more wistful and melancholic,
salon music of the most aristocratic kind.
Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz was written in 1860 and
is based on an episode from Lenau’s Faust called ‘Dance at the
Village Inn’ at which Mephistopheles plays his violin, inspiring Faust
and the villagers to dance wildly with the local girls, the music gradually
rising in excitement and sensuality by its climax. It is the first of
four Mephisto Waltzes and a Polka which Liszt wrote, and is a piano
transcription of an orchestral work, Two Episodes from Lenau’s Faust,
made at roughly the same time. It is a brilliantly dramatic piece, its
central section full of chromatic language which looks forward to Scriabin.
Of the Brazilian pieces Villa-Lobos’s Valsa dor
(one of three substantial twelve-minute waltzes on the disc) is a crafted
but charming work, Mignone’s Valsa de Esquina an attractive serenade
in imitation of the guitar, Fernandez’s Suburban Waltz not quite
in the same class as its two compatriots. Godowsky’s contribution is
unashamedly sentimental, Levitsky’s a taxing miniature, and the arrangement
of Strauss’s evergreen waltz a tour de force.
Clélia Iruzun is a fine pianist with a few discs
already behind her and a seemingly full schedule of recitals ahead of
her (if you live in East Anglia you can hear her at Holkham Hall, Norfolk
on 3 October 2002) and is not only technically assured and idiomatically
colourful, but she also gets to the heart of these varied waltz styles.
A highly enjoyable hour and a quarter listening.