> The Waltz Album:Clélia Iruzun [CF]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Waltzes for the piano

CHOPIN Grande Valse Brillante Op.34 No.1/ Valse Op.69 No.1
WEBER Invitation to the Waltz Op.65
VILLA-LOBOS Valsa da dor
MIGNONE Valse de Esquina No.1
FERNANDEZ Valsa Suburbana Op.70
GRANADOS Valses Poeticos
BRAHMS Waltz Op.39 No.15
J STRAUSS/A SCHULZ-EVLER Arabesques on the Blue Danube Waltz
LEVITZKI Valse de Concert
LISZT Mephisto Waltz No.1
Clélia Iruzun (piano)
Recorded at Swedish Radio, Göteborg on May 14th & 16th 2001
INTIM MUSIK IMCD077 [75’29"]


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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.

Christopher Fifield

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