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Name of Work

Ravel, Maurice (1875-1937)
Ma Mère l'Oye

Movements:
Pavane de la Belle au bois dormant
Petit Poucet
Laideronnette, l'impératice des Pagodes
Les Entretiens de la Belle et la Bête
Le Jardin féerique

Performances:


Mar 28, 1993



Larry Combs, Clarinet
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Michael Henoch, Oboe
John Sharp, Cello
Gail Williams, Horn
Michel Debost, Flute
Bruce Grainger, Bassoon
Bradley Opland, Double bass
Rami Solomonow, Viola


Mar 29, 1993



Larry Combs, Clarinet
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Michael Henoch, Oboe
John Sharp, Cello
Gail Williams, Horn
Michel Debost, Flute
Bruce Grainger, Bassoon
Bradley Opland, Double bass
Rami Solomonow, Viola

RAVEL - "Ma Mère 1'Oye" arranged by Willard Elliot for Winds and Strings

Composed in 1911

"In Fauré," writes the British critic G.W. Hopkins, "[Ravel] had a truly sympathetic teacher whose undogmatic guidance and encouragement were to be acknowledged in the dedications of [two] important works, the piano piece Jeux d'eau and the String Quartet." The reference is to Ravel's second sojourn, beginning in 1897, at the Paris Conservatory, an academic milieu in which he had not been and would not be happy, except for his membership in Fauré's composition class. He had already completed some songs at this time, the piano pieces Habañera and Menuet antique, and the Shéhérazade (Fairyland) Overture; the quote from Hopkins notes his next compositions, which won him greatly increased recognition. Some years later, Ravel joined Fauré in founding the Independent Musical Society, which sponsored the 1910 premiere of his piano-duet suite Ma Mère l'Oye: Mother Goose.

This work was not originally for public performance; it was a gift to the son and daughter of Ravel's friends Cipa and Ida Godebski. The pieces' immediate appeal and particular charm originate from a deliberately simplified style that is easily enjoyed by children, but has also delighted adults for decades. The image that persists across those decades is that of a solitary man who hid his inner self from friends and professional associates, who cherished small, exquisitely-crafted objects and sought equally careful craftsmanship in music, a childless bachelor who extended love to other people's children. He chose the subjects for his pieces not from the nursery rhymes that English-speaking people connect with Mother Goose, but from French fairy tales, as re-told by Charles Perrault, Marie Catherine d'Aulnoy, and Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.

Ma Mère l'Oye was arranged as a ballet score in 1911, and has become most familiar in this orchestral form, although the duet version is far from forgotten. Willard Elliot, principal bassoonist of the Chicago Symphony, who has written several works for orchestra and for chamber groups, has also arranged pieces by earlier composers, including Alexander Scriabin; about his Mother Goose setting, he has said: "It is music I have always loved, and a score that seemed to lend itself well to transcription." During the Chicago Symphony's most recent tour of Japan, the CSO Chamber Players performed the Ravel-Elliot work to great acclaim.

The first movement is a stately Pavane for Sleeping Beauty; she might be another evocation of the long-ago princess who inspired one of Ravel's best known pieces, the Pavane pour une Infante défunte. Petit Poucet may be translated as Tom Thumb; the march-like third movement is a portrait of a "little ugly girl" who rules the land of the Pagodas — not Chinese temples, but little Oriental figurines who have come to life. The story of Beauty and the Beast has recently returned to prominence through film, television, and popular music; Ravel's interpretation, in waltz rhythm, depicts the conversations during which two dissimilar creatures find each other. The fairy-tale adventure ends in a magical garden, a gently-paced finale that evokes a whole world of wonder and enchantment.

Program Notes by Andrea Lamoreaux

Performed March 28 and 29, 1993



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