Classics Explained: RAVEL - Boléro and Ma Mère l’oye

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Classics Explained: RAVEL - Boléro and Ma Mère l’oye



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97 minutes


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Classics Explained: RAVEL - Boléro and Ma Mère l’oye

An exploration of Ravel's Bolero and Ma Mere L'Oye narrated by Jeremy Siepmann

CD - 2 discs


(also available to download from $14.00)

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Maurice Ravel: An Introduction to … RAVEL: Bolero and Ma Mere L'oye

Bolero-Introduction; cue to unadorned Bolero rhythm, Part 1

Bolero rhythm, Part 2: an extended variation of Part 1

' Motto ' rhythm complete

But here we have snare drums and plucked violas and cellos

Section 1: Introduction of ' the theme ' by solo flute

Flute continues with Part 2 of theme

Section 2: Complete statement of theme by clarinet as flute joins ' motto ' group

Introduction of ' discordant ' harp into the unfolding picture

Section 3: Bassoon introduces closely related variant of theme

...but then veers upwards, slowing rhythm and introducing new syncopation

Section 4: ' Petite ' E flat clainet takes over theme, including variants

Section 5: Oboe d'amore takes over theme but returns to its original form

Section 6: Theme now shared by two instruments: uted trumpet and flute

Section 7: Tenor saxophone takes Theme as trumpet replaces horn in ' motto '

Section 8: Theme taken by soprano saxphone, ' espressivo '

Section 9: Theme: celeste, piccolos and horn; Motto: flute and French horn

Section 10: Theme: Oboes, horns, clarinets; Motto: plucked violas and violins

Section 11: Theme taken by First Trombone, complete with jazzy slides

Section 12: Theme: flutes, oboes, clarinets, sax; Motto: bassoons, horns, trumpets

Section 13: Violins at last take the main tune, joining massed winds

Section 14: Violins divide into four groups, each ' double-stopping '

Section 15: Trumpet, trombone 2 and tuba join the foreground

Section 16: First trombone and soprano saxophone ' rejoin ' theme

Section 17: Fortissimo; all strings ' double-stopping '; trumpets added

Section 18: Entire orchestra now employed, ' as loudly as possible '

Section 19: Sudden, amazing change of key, lurching from C to E major

Section 20: Key now lurches back to C, as jazzy trombones whiningly protest

Cue to complete performance

Bolero (complete)

Pavane de la Belle au bois dormant-Opening figure on flute; rising, falling, and then reeated

Same again, with emphasis on delicacy of scoring

answering variant, accompanied by plucked double basses

Reminder of opening figure

... and now its rhythmical mirror image, or almost...

Answering Phrase 2: a near-inversion, over ' James Bond ' accompaniment

Pivotal Phrase 3, reversing direction but keeping rhythm of Phrase 2

Reprise of Phrases 1 and 2, but with new accompaniment

Further Reprise of Phrase 2, now on violin, accompanied by harp

Pavane (complete)

Petit Poucet (Tom Thumb)-Introduction; Opening, with multi-metre rising scales from muted violins

Change of metre continue as solo oboe introduces Theme One

Oboe yields to Cor Anglais for Theme Two, against lower (still muted) strings

Theme One returns, shared by clarinet and flute, muted horn added to accompaniment

'Motto' rhythm dominates as intensity increases from lower strings to full orchestra

Fear subsides as Theme Two returns, again in Cor Anglais but now in a different key

Sensational sound effects evoke a wood at night, with screeches, cuckooing etc.

Texture thins; Theme one returns, delicately scored for strings and piccolo

The main part of movement ends, with waltz-like march(!), featuring flute

Petit Poucet (complete)

Laideronnette, Imperatrice des Pagodes-Introduction; opening bars, followed by Theme One

Oriental-orchestral equivalent of an imprial telephone bell

... oboe ' answers ' with a very slightly varied version of Theme One

Expanded derivative of the ' telephone bell ' interrupts the theme again

Fragments of theme in flutes and cor anglais, with ' James Bond ' tag in violins

'Gamelan ' music from flute and piccolo, accompanied by harp, xylophone and strings

arrival of Empress; upper strings yield to winds, celeste, harp and (very discreet) gong

Laideronnette, Imperatrice des Pagodes (complete)

Les entretiens de la Belle et de la Bete- opening

Characteristic pattern of two short phrases answered by a long one

Clarinet, flutes and violas, with ' sighing' figure derived from downward string motif

Varied reprise of opening, entry of the ' Beast '; ' Watch it ! Watch it ! '

Again the ' Beast ' growls; again the cautious warning ' Watch it ! ' from the winds

Derivative of Beauty's Theme from flute, combined with ' caution motif ' in strings

' Beast's theme ' rises in pitch with each successive ' gowl ' (representing hope?)

' Beauty ', ' Beast ' and ' Caution ' motifs all combine simultaneously

' Beast ' (contra-bassoon) climbs ever higher, handing over to bassoon proper

Harp's upward glide heralds the moment of transformation; love song, fear, release

Les entretiens de la Belle et de la Bete (complete)

Le jardin feerique-Introduction; Opening bars are unfuuuuuuuuurled by the strings alone

The rhythmic basis, and its guises. First, a question: ' Where went my childhood?'

The question intensified:' Oh where went ... my childhood?'

The answer, with a falling inflection: ' Gone is your childhood.'

The plea: ' Bring back my childhood!'

The response: ' Seek in ... your mem'ry. There it ... will be.'

Ravel's use of tone colour to change the feeling of the music

Further illustration of the same point


The nobility of the strings

Bells evoked by French horns; the final, opulent, moving climax of the whole suite

Le jardin feerique (complete)

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