Digital resources for French Romantic music

Valse romantique (Claude Debussy)




Valse romantique: if Debussy had given this type of title to a piece written at the height of his career, it would definitely have had ironic undertones. However, in 1890, the date of this dance, which might be an allusion to Chabrier’s Valses romantiques for two pianos (1883), the composer, then barely thirty, still felt it necessary to stay within the romantic tradition and conform to the fashionable sociability of salon life. After composing a Danse bohémienne in 1880 (his first known piece for piano), he had neglected the keyboard for ten years in favour of the genre of the mélodie or art song. It was in the field of vocal music that he came up with the harmonic colours and instrumental textures which later benefitted the solo piano, as can be seen by works from the early 1890s, which sometimes had titles inherited from Chopin: Rêverie, Tarentelle styrienne, Ballade slave, Mazurka, Deux Arabesques, Nocturne and Valse romantique. Debussy sold the rights for this waltz to Choudens in a contract signed 31 January 1891. He then had it reprinted by Fromont in 1903, proof of his continuing fondness for this early piece. Based on an intensely felt melody, the music is swept along by its passionate momentum to conclude with an impressive peroration. The characteristic traits of Debussy’s mature style are beginning to emerge, however, and can be seen in certain unconventional harmonic sequences (the first few bars, for example), and in the lightness and transparency of the textures. Listeners will also notice the ethereal wreaths of notes which, in the first section of the piece, punctate the melodic phrases, introducing a certain dissymmetry into the bar structure.

    Person - 1
  • DEBUSSY, Claude (1862-1918)
  • Themes - 2
  • Piano – La « pièce de genre » pianistique
  • Piano – Fin-de-siècle Romantic Piano Music