Robert Helps’ Program notes

Shall we dance

 The title ’Shall We Dance‘ came to me compellingly and spontaneously about half way through composing the piece. I never fight a title that emerges in this fashion even if, as in this case, I occasionally have second thoughts about it. Despite the casual sound of the title, this is not a flippant or popularistic piece. The work is serious – but sensual. This relatively long (for me) single movement, about twelve minutes, developed slowly, carefully, and hopefully, organically. From the start, this piece insisted on being a sort-of-generic 3/4 dance movement, more waltz-like than anything else – with notable interruptions. One instance of this – the 3/4 rhythm disintegrates, basically self-destructs towards the climax of the piece, only to regenerate slowly later and proceed to the end. There is a lot of textural, filigree piano writing reminiscent perhaps of works like Ravel’s “Valses nobles et sentimentales” and sonically of passages in Chopin (Nocturnes, Berceuse). It is also a paean to the pedal, that fabulous pianist’s resource that only pianists have – the lack of which makes even the wonderful orchestral transcriptions by Ravel of his own piano music fade when compared to the original. 

Robert Helps

More about Shall We Dance