Delibes’ 1876 ballet Sylvia was, and remains, somewhat overshadowed by his earlier, extremely successful, ballet Coppelia. The reason for this can largely be attributed to the ballet’s thin (even by ballet standards!) story line. The music itself is absolutely delightful and had numerous admirers at the time including, no less, Tchaikovsky, who said of it, “What charm, what elegance, what richness of melody, rhythm, harmony!”. Delibes, recognising that his music may be forgotten, decided to put together a concert suite – of which Valse Lente forms part.
The music accompanies a moonlit scene in which the nymph Sylvia swings on vines, skimming her toes in the stream below.