In “La valse d’or” op. 21 no. 2 by the modern Norwegian composer Gisle Krogseth you encounter a paradox in the creator’s experiment with the three-quarter measure usual for the waltz: he totally defies it. Consequentially, the character of the piece is novel, but paired with a certain sense of uncertainty and irrationality. A skillfully selected sextet of flute, clarinet, piano, violin, viola and cello allows the sound colour of this instrumentation and its musical palette to embody the artistic vision. However, the thoughtful combination of timbres creates a transparent and light music texture.
The work follows a concentric three-part pattern AB-C-BA. It is worth mentioning that in the structure of the musical elements one can’t but notice a number symbolism peculiar to the theme of dissonance and consonance interaction. Number seven – the seventh, is omnipresent – all the themes start with the seven-four meter, theme B contains seven measures, the duration of middle part is seven by two measures. The inversion of a seventh – the second – is also reflected: it serves as foundation for all three themes and is embedded in the correlation of tonalities of the external and middle parts. The seventh and second are dissonant, symbols of instability but, once dissolved, incline towards consonance. The number symbolism of consonance is visible in the structure of theme A, which lasts eight measures and preserves its integrity in the reprise, where theme B represents a reduced variant.
Theme A comprises two elements: The introductory pizzicato of the strings anticipates the appearance of the more prominent and expressive main part. Its characteristic dotted rhythm runs all through the entire themes of the composition. The descending seconds in theme B in combination with the previously mentioned dots, this time with a double augmentation, tinges the second theme with a questioning grievance.
The transition from E-minor to a darker F-minor marks the beginning of the middle part. Despite the somber tonality and the thematic similarities to parts A and B, theme C with its constantly ascending melody is more optimistic. Gradually the theme breaks up, stratifies and the culmination point comes crowned with a chord whose external sounds span six octaves: from С1 to B6. (The same note will sound in the final chord but with a bass E tone).
The mirroring reprise, which shapes the necessary symmetry of the form begins in the golden section point. The inquiring intonation of the final part of theme B and above all the general pause following it pave the way for the spectacular appearance of theme A. The first element of the theme doesn’t vanish in the reprise with the introduction of the second one but finds its expression in an octave doubling counterpoint of the piano with its previously subordinate role and together with the dynamic and timbre crescendo moves on to the coda culmination creating in this way a thematic arch.
“La valse d’or” amazes the listener with its deep message in a very concise form of expression. In our view though, the middle part of the composition could be more interesting if the composer had taken enough space and time to develop the theme. The classical form lends the work the necessary harmony and an impression of equilibrium and clarity. Having found the optimal balance between innovative and familiar methods of composition Krogseth managed to create a contemporary piece that is at the same time challenging and easy to enjoy.