The Valse Sentimentale is the last movement in Tchaikovsky’s work Six Pieces (Op. 51) for solo piano, composed in 1882.
You can read the history of the creation of this set of six pieces here (if you’re a Tchaikovsky fan, this website is a wealth of information; here’s the main page). Here you can see the manuscript of the pieces in Tchaikovsky’s own hand (click on the book icon in the middle of the page).
There’s an interesting story behind the solo piano video presented above. The French pianist in the video, Lucas Debargue, was awarded fourth place by the judges in the 15th International Tchaikovsky Competition. Of six finalists, there was one gold, a joint silver, a joint bronze, and fourth place. Yet his performance was widely acclaimed, leading some to question the judges’ decisions (first place was awarded to Russian Dmitri Masleev).
Conductor Valery Gergiev, chairman of the competition, made the bold move of insisting that Debargue play at the concert showcasing the winners of the competition, and that is the performance presented above. You can read more about the competition and the controversy here and here and here, from one of the judges.
I’m not going to get into that debate.
But I suppose if you disagree with an interpretation, any interpretation, it makes you think about how you believe it should be interpreted. It makes you think about the music. And that is always a good thing. I can’t help but recall Leonard Bernstein’s disagreement with Glenn Gould over the Brahms Piano Concerto No 1, in which the two had widely differing opinions about how the piece should be played.
Interested in hearing more from the International Tchaikovsky Competition? Want to be an unofficial judge? The performances of participants in the piano, cello, violin, and voice competitions can be found here. This might be the soundtrack of your Monday!
Image attribution: Photograph of Tchaikovsky [public domain] from book Tchaikovsky by Edwin Evans. London: J.M. Dent & Co., New York:E.P. Dutton & Co., 1906 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ATchaikovsky_1906_Evans.PNG