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Name of Work

Ravel, Maurice (1875-1937)
Introduction and Allegro

Movements:
Introduction and Allegro

Performances:


Oct 21, 2007



Mathieu Dufour, Flute
Larry Combs, Clarinet
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Kozue Funakoshi, Violin
Yukiko Ogura, Viola
Katinka Kleijn, Cello
Yumiko Endo Schlaffer, Harp


Oct 22, 2007



Larry Combs, Clarinet
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Kozue Funakoshi, Violin
Yukiko Ogura, Viola
Katinka Kleijn, Cello
Yumiko Endo Schlaffer, Harp
Mathieu Dufour, Flute

RAVEL-Introduction and Allegro for Harp, with the Accompaniment of Flute, Clarinet and Strings

Composed in 1905.

Premiered on February 22, 1907 in Paris, with Micheline Kahn as soloist.

BACKGROUND
The harp is among the most ancient of instruments. Its existence in Mesopotamia is documented as far back as 3,000 B.C., and it was known virtually from the dawn of recorded history in Egypt, Israel and Greece. Harps were common throughout Christian Europe; it is still the heraldic symbol of Ireland.

The instrument remained essentially unchanged in its construction until about 1810, when the Parisian piano maker Sébastien Érard introduced a system of pedals to chromatically alter the pitches of the open strings. Though this instrument could effectively negotiate every note within its range, it was somewhat clumsy of operation, and various attempts were made to simplify the harp's mechanics.

At the end of the 19th century, Gustave Lyon developed a "chromatic harp," a pedal-less instrument in which a single string was devoted to each chromatic note. The Parisian instrument-making firm of Pleyel put Lyon's invention into production in 1897, in direct competition with Érard et Compagnie and its long-established harp. By the turn of the century, Pleyel was casting about for ways to win some business from Érard, who, as the supplier of pianos and harps to the Paris Conservatoire, enjoyed immense prestige across the Continent.

In 1904, Pleyel succeeded in having a course devoted to their chromatic harp instituted at the Brussels Conservatory, and the company's officials asked Claude Debussy to compose a work specifically for the new instrument that would serve both as a test piece for the students and as a demonstration of their harp's potential to prospective buyers.

In the spring of 1904, he composed the Danse Sacrée et Danse Profane for chromatic harp and string orchestra. To counter Pleyel's commercial advances, Érard commissioned the Introduction and Allegro from Maurice Ravel later that same year.

MUSIC
Though the Introduction and Allegro was originally scored for an ensemble of harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet, it is really more a miniature concerto for harp than a conventional chamber work for equal instrumental voices. (Ravel may well have found a model for such a chamber concerto in Ernest Chausson's Concert for Violin, Piano and String Quartet of 1891. He worked closely with Chausson on the activities of the Société Nationale in the years before his older colleague's death in 1899.)

Ravel also made a version with string orchestra, which he conducted on numerous occasions. The Introduction, limpid and atmospheric, not only previews some of the thematic material that returns later in the work but also opens an opulent world of sonority that seems out of all proportion to the limited instrumental resources required.

The Allegro is in a simple three-part form: two themes are presented in the opening section and repeated at the close, while the melody of the introduction and the second theme are elaborated in the central portion.

Program notes by Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Performance date: October 21 & 22, 2007



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