Sunday, February 8, 2015

"The Vortex of the Waltz" - Vladimir Purveninsky (né 1957)

Noble and Sentimental Waltzes (1911)
Maurice Ravel
performed by pianist

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet

The "Valses nobles et sentimentales," a suite of waltzes composed by Maurice Ravel in 1911. The piano version was published first, and an orchestral version was published a year later. The suite contains a unique blend of Impressionist and Modernist music, which is especially evident in the orchestral version.

Ravel was intrigued by the waltz. By 1906 he had started composing what later would become La valse, in which he tried to epitomize everything this popular genre encompassed. In 1911, prior to the 1919 publication of La valse, he published the piano version of his suite of eight Valses nobles et sentimentales

The work was first performed on May 8, 1911 by Louis Aubert, to whom the work is dedicated, at a performance of new works where the composers were not identified. It was sponsored by the Société Musicale Indépendante, to promote the works of more adventurous composers, without "burdening" critics with the attached labels of authorship. This was in theory supposed to encourage the critics to evaluate what they actually heard rather than simply judging the piece by the name of the composer. 

The anonymous work generated a disturbing chorus of boos and catcalls. Many were unnerved by the acerbic harmonic palette that he employed. Some even thought the piece was a parody. When the votes were tallied, the nominated composers included Erik Satie, Charles Koechlin, Vincent d'Indy and even Zoltán Kodály, but "a minute majority," Ravel recalled, "ascribed the paternity of the Valses to me.”

1. Modéré 2. Assez lent 3. Modéré 4. Assez animé 5. Presque lent 6. Assez vif 7. Moins vif 8. Epilogue: lent 

Pianist: Jean-Efflam Bavouzet


  1. The photos take me back my medal-earning days in amateur ballroom dancing. Yes, I had ball gowns. Hard to believe that AOW ever did such a thing, huh?

    As for the music, I love Ravel -- even the dissonances.

    1. Ah, but the dissonances are precisely what gives the music its character. They make Ravel Ravel.

    2. FT,

      But I can't endure a steady diet of dissonances.

    3. No one can, AOW, but I would insist that the key defining element in music is found in the achievement of producing a satisfactory RESOLUTION of a series of DISSONANCES into a logical, equally satisfying series of CONSONANCES.

      The latter has no meaning and would be as bland as a vat filled with unseasoned Cream of Farina.

      What gives pasta its appeal? The piquancy given to it by a variety of sauces. Thin of it this way:

      Pasta = Consonance
      Sauce = Dissonance

      The two elements need each other to make the meal appetizing and enjoyable.

      The same is true of Life, itself.

  2. I miss the elegance portrayed in the graphics in this blog post.

    1. So do I, of course, AOW, but that is why Music and Art, especially of this great a caliber are so important. They preserve the dreams and delights of our young years –– and of ages past –– and present them with a sharply-focused, highly-concentrated power of such elegance, poignant affection and deep understanding that those who will never have the chance experience life in that particular way may come to love and understand it in their capacity for empathy and the realm of their imagination.

      Ravel caught and preserved for us the wistful spirit of aristocratic fin de siecle Europe –– a time before machinery made in grim factories, shoddy mass produced goods, violent aggression, societal upheaval, mass murder on an unprecedented scale, anxiety, neurosis and mounting desperation took over the world.

      These waltzes present a sad farewell -- to Youth, Beauty, Romance, Privilege, Subtlety, Erotic Enchantment –– and Hope –– all in the context of a bemused, dream-like vision of a glorious past that may never have existed.

  3. Almost harmonious in its' dissonance,,, but I can't say I'm a fan,

    1. Keep listening. I hope one day you may come to enjoy these things as I do. If it were not for the uplifting beauty, wonder, great wisdom, –– and sympathy –– I have found in Music, Art and Literature my life would have been unendurable, and probably would have ended prematurely many years ago. I can think of no better raison d'etre than to learn to know, love and expand one's knowledge and appreciation of Beauty (i.e. Truth, Love, God).

  4. I enjoyed it, and the dissonance did not bother me, as FJ said is was oddly almost harmonious. Can't explain it.

    Being the hick that I am, Wesphalia Waltz is more my speed.

    Despite its name, it has nothing to do with Europe. It is a fiddle tune written in Texas and named after Westphalia, Texas.

    1. Nothing wrong with that. It's very pleasant. Ravel's work in waltz time would not have been possible and neither would that of Franz Liszt, Johann Strauss, Emil Waldteufel, Franz Lehar, and more latterly John Alden Carpenter and Stephen Sondheim. and many others. without the sweet, relatively simple folk tunes and dances like that that predated but definitely inspired the larger, more complex works.

      In fact Ravel, himself, must have been directly inspired by Franz Schubert's copious output of Laendler (slow waltzes of German peasant origin). Schubert actually called some of his various sets of these small, simple, but characteristically lyrical pieces "NOBLE and SENTIMENTAL WALTZES."

      Not "stealing" or even "imitation" on Ravel's part but simply the acknowledgment of a DEBT he must have felt he owed to Schubert.

      I like your Westphalia Waltz, and was pleasantly surprised at how well it was played -- particularly by the young woman violinist -- BUT like most of these folk, folk-like or folk-inspired things after the first two minutes I found myself longing for more dynamic, thematic and textural contrast and greater development. The relief I sought finally came at approximately 4:30 on the video, but I felt it was too little and too late.

    2. I realize that to a cultured ear accustomed to good classical music, popular tunes must go round and round in redundant circles.

    3. Actually, the "dissonance" you hear would go on to become a popular sound in American composition later, on Broadway. Think Gershwin, Berlin, etc.


  5. I also like the impressionist painting at the top of the post. Who is it?

    1. Don't know for sure, but I'm willing to bet it must be Renoir.

    2. No it isn't Renoir but his three "dancing couple" paintings ("Dance at Bougival" is probably best known) offer an interesting contrast to Ravel.

      Typical of Renoir they are free of any "sharp edges" although there is a discreet sexual tension in all of the paintings and a concern for fashion.

      Both men were dandy to some extent.

    3. Well, Ducky, if it isn't Renoir, then who is it? Certainly it must be from the Impressionist period. The only other painters I know who worked in the style originated and made famous by Renoir were the Americans Mary Cassatt and Childe Hassam. I'm certain there must have been many others, but can't think who they might be right now. Perhaps you'd be good enough to fill us in on the subject? I'd be interested to learn what you might have to say.

      Ravel -- along with Debussy and the American Charles Tomlinson Griffes -- is considered an "Impressionistic" composer, but I see his unique, plaintive voice and capacity for rich, dark, unbridled fantasy combined with the tenderest sentiment as a BRIDGE between late-Romanticism and Modernism.

      Some of his works namely the Piano Concerto in G-Major and the Concerto for the Left Hand Alone, Tzigane, and L'enfant et les sortileges, strike me as more "modern" than "Impressionistic," but as one gets more and more intimately acquainted with great music, labels come to mean less and less. In the end Ravel is simply RAVEL. It's impossible to mistake his music for anyone else's --a quality shared by all the truly significant composers by the way.

      Both Ravel and Debussy were fascinated by Jazz, -- a new thing in their time -- and incorporated many of the remarkably inventive harmonies and rhythmic patterns they heard in the improvisatory genre in their own individual fashion.


      Pervunensky? I don't know him, but born in 1957 he might still be alive.

    5. Thank you so MUCH, Jez. I have no idea how you were able to identify the artist, but I'm glad you did. Wonders will never cease! Pervuninsky paints in the style of the impressionists and does, indeed, closely resemble Renoir, but on closer inspection with better copies available thanks to you, I can see a good deal of difference between the way the original impressionists and Vladimir Purvuninsky paint faces. The latter are more detailed and seem more like mid-century magazine illustrations than the turn-of-the-century prototypes.


      Cosmopolitan Art Gallery biography of Vladimir Pervuninsky‎

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      Purvuninsky seems a kindred spirit to me in that he seems to prefer living in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and seems well able to do so through his remarkably fine skill as a painter. ;-) I do similarly by surrounding myself with antiques, writing poetry in classical forms, reading literary classics from the pre-WWI period, listening to and performing so-called classical music almost exclusively, and composing music in eclectic styles resembling Bach, Mendelssohn, Parry and Elgar.

    6. "I have no idea how you were able to identify the artist, but I'm glad you did."

      It was no bother, I just used google's "search by image."

    7. That painting by Purvuninsky is beautiful!



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