Carl Maria von Weber (1786­1826) / arr. Hector Berlioz (1803­69)

L'Invitation à la valse

H. 90

For P. fl, Fl, Hb. I-II, Cl. I-II, Bns I-IV, Cors I-IV, Tromp. I-II, Cornets à pistons I-II, Tromb. I-III, Timb., Cordes.

Composed by Carl Maria von Weber as Aufforderung zum Tanz: Rondo brillant für das Piano-Forte, op. 65 (Berlin, 1819); arranged for full orchestra by Hector Berlioz, spring 1841.

This arrangement first performed 7 June 1841 with Weber's Freischütz at the Paris Opéra (Pantaléon Battu, conducting)

Published by Ad. Martin Schlesinger (Berlin, 1842) and Maurice Schlesinger (Paris, 1842).

Duration: c. 12 minutes

Despite his frequent intemperate remarks about "arrangers, correctors, and mutilators" of the great masters, Berlioz consented to revise Weber's epochal Der Freischütz for its 1841 production at the Paris Opéra. By tradition of the house this would require recitatives in lieu of the spoken dialogue and a second-act ballet. Declining suggestions that the ballet consist of "Un Bal" from the Symphonie fantastique and the "Grande Fête chez Cauplet" from Roméo et Juliette, Berlioz turned to Weber's popular piano rondo, "Invitation to the Dance," scoring it for the full orchestra of the Opéra (two harps, two trumpets and two cornets, but no tuba.)

In the introduction the man (cello) approaches a partner with the invitation to waltz; at the end comes the final bow-and-curtsey. The waltz consists of multiple strings in response to the rondo theme: among these are the famous balancé passages that served as a kind of trio (and served the jazz clarinettist Benny Goodman as a theme-song), and at the center a plunge into D-flat major (from D major) and circuitous journey back to D.

Berlioz got the composer's royalties for his work on Freischütz, which (unlike his own operas) stayed in the repertoire at the Opéra for the rest of his life: his net income from Freischútz appears to have made it one of the most profitable musical undertakings of his career. And in the dozens of concerts he conducted throughout Europe, L'Invitation à la valse occupied a central position, programmed more frequently than any other work but for Le Carnaval romain.