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Study in the form of a waltz op. 52 no. 6 (Camille Saint-Saëns)




A virtuoso on the keyboard, which he began studying under his great-aunt at the age of two and a half, Camille Saint-Saëns composed a great deal for his instrument including, in particular, three sets of Six Études: opus 52 (1877), opus 111 (1909) and opus 135 for left hand (1912). The Étude en forme de valse, probably the best-known piece from the first set, has all the qualities of a show-stoppingly jaunty finale, following an impressive Prélude and an odd study for the independence of the fingers, as well as two neoclassical Prélude et Fugues, in F minor and A major, which sandwich a deliciously subtle Étude de rythme. It is from the waltz, which does not have a fixed form, that this pyrotechnic finale borrows its free-flowing succession of refrains and couplets, its verve and the rhythmic quirks afforded by its adherence to the lively three-four beat. However, no one would want to risk their neck dancing to this etude, which is just as unforgiving for fingers playing with less than perfect technique. That way disaster lies because, holding out one hand to Weber’s Invitation à la valse—same key of D flat major, conducive to virtuosity, same harmonic sensibility—and the other to the runs, suspensions and derisive sniggers of Liszt’s Mephisto-Walzer, the piece brings out the fantastic-erotic undertones that have long been associated with this closed dance for two: “Let the waltz sweep us away, until we gasp for breath, until we die”, sing the chorus at the village fair in Faust. We should not forget, either, that the Danse macabre is a waltz.

    Person - 1
  • SAINT-SAËNS, Camille (1835-1921)
  • Themes - 2
  • Genre – L’étude, un genre romantique
  • Piano – Fin-de-siècle Romantic Piano Music