Ravel Mother Goose Suite

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Ravel Mother Goose Suite Dances Program Notes

Maurice Ravel composed Mother Goose, for piano (four hands) as Children’s Pieces, with two specific performers in mind – two children of friends. The two children who premiered it, in 1910, were not his original the dedicatees – but they were aged six and seven! He orchestrated it the next year. It draws its inspiration (and title) from what is, in France, the main collection of children’s books, Charles Perrault’s Contes de ma Mère l’Oye, (Tales from my Mother Goose, 1697, the French model for the German Brothers Grimm book.)

I. Ravel composed this simple movement first, a courtly Pavane for Sleeping Beauty.

II. Tom Thumb, lost in the forest, seeks his trail of crumbs. The music courses through varying time signatures, with a melancholic melody passed between oboe, English horn and cello. Imaginative violin harmonics and trills depict the birds: they have eaten the crumbs.

III. Liaderonette, Empress of the Pagodas, is Dzthe little ugly one,dz served by her minions in a miniature Chinese court. Pentatonicism (think of a five-note scale using the black notes on a piano) provides the building blocks of the music.

IV. Beauty and the Beast: her melody is mostly in the clarinet solo, and the contrabassoon (with a low and grumbly range) is the Beast, until a harp glissando represents his transformation – his music is now played in a concertmaster solo.

V. The Enchanted Garden is a meditative and gorgeous paean to nature and conclusion of the piece.

Born: March 7, 1875, Ciboure, France
Died: December 28, 1937, Paris, France

Categories: Program Notes