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Trois Poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé

Maurice Ravel (b. 1875 - d. 1937)

Katharine Dain

Katharine Dain

Composer
Maurice Ravel (b. 1875 - d. 1937)
Composition Year
1913
Work Movements
1. Soupir
2. Placet futile
3. Surgi de la croupe et du bonde
Artists
Katherine Dain [soprano], Phillipe Bernold [flute], Fiona Kelly [flute], Romain Guyot [clarinet], Mathias Kjøller [clarinet], Anna Tilbrook [piano], Vanbrugh Quartet (Gregory Ellis, Keith Pascoe [violins] Simon Aspell [viola] Christopher Marwood [cello])

Programme Note Writer:
© Ian Fox

Stéphane Mallarmé was a leading French symbolist poet. He was an important influence on such movements as Cubism, Dadaism and Surrealism. A number of composers set his often puzzling verses to music including Debussy (e.g. L’après –midi d’un faune), Milhaud and Boulez.  Ravel set this trio of poems in 1913 when he was holidaying in Switzerland, courtesy of Diaghilev. He met Stravinsky there and they got on very well. Stravinsky considered these Trois Poèmes were his favourite music by Ravel, who dedicated Soupir to Stravinsky while Placet futile is dedicated to French composer Florent Schmitt. Erik Satie is honoured with the almost incomprehensible third Poème.

Ravel scored the songs for voice and a chamber group consisting of two flutes, two clarinets, string quartet and piano. All three are slow moving:  Lent – Très modéré -  Lent,  and the scoring is light and sparse throughout.  Words by and large are set as one note per syllable, with occasional soaring vocal flourishes, which add to the overall high timbre.  The first song opens with a glow of rapid violin arpeggios reflecting the gushing waters of the white fountain in the text. Stravinsky made references to the second song Placet futile in his A Soldier’s Tale, both describing pastoral scenes; there are even echoes of Daphnis et Chloé, written the previous year.  

Originally Ravel planned just two songs but later added the third, the strangest and most hermetic song, as Ravel himself commented.  Debussy described Ravel as having the most refined musical ear ever; he had also decided to set the first two of these poems without realising that Ravel held the rights to their use. However Ravel happily allowed Debussy to proceed with his versions, commenting wryly there would be a Debussy-Ravel contest  as a result. The first performance took place in Paris on January 14th, 1914, with Jane Bathori as soloist.

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Trois Poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé

Composer: Maurice Ravel (b. 1875 - d. 1937)
Performance date: Saturday 4th July 2015
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Maurice Ravel (b. 1875 - d. 1937)
Work Title Trois Poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé
Composition Year 1913
Work Movements 1. Soupir
2. Placet futile
3. Surgi de la croupe et du bonde
Artist(s) Katherine Dain [soprano], Phillipe Bernold [flute], Fiona Kelly [flute], Romain Guyot [clarinet], Mathias Kjøller [clarinet], Anna Tilbrook [piano], Vanbrugh Quartet (Gregory Ellis, Keith Pascoe [violins] Simon Aspell [viola] Christopher Marwood [cello])
Performance Date Saturday 4th July 2015
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Finale
Duration 00:11:55
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Large Mixed Ensemble
Instrumentation S-solo, 2fl, 2cl, pf, 2vn, va, vc
Programme Note Writer © Ian Fox

Stéphane Mallarmé was a leading French symbolist poet. He was an important influence on such movements as Cubism, Dadaism and Surrealism. A number of composers set his often puzzling verses to music including Debussy (e.g. L’après –midi d’un faune), Milhaud and Boulez.  Ravel set this trio of poems in 1913 when he was holidaying in Switzerland, courtesy of Diaghilev. He met Stravinsky there and they got on very well. Stravinsky considered these Trois Poèmes were his favourite music by Ravel, who dedicated Soupir to Stravinsky while Placet futile is dedicated to French composer Florent Schmitt. Erik Satie is honoured with the almost incomprehensible third Poème.

Ravel scored the songs for voice and a chamber group consisting of two flutes, two clarinets, string quartet and piano. All three are slow moving:  Lent – Très modéré -  Lent,  and the scoring is light and sparse throughout.  Words by and large are set as one note per syllable, with occasional soaring vocal flourishes, which add to the overall high timbre.  The first song opens with a glow of rapid violin arpeggios reflecting the gushing waters of the white fountain in the text. Stravinsky made references to the second song Placet futile in his A Soldier’s Tale, both describing pastoral scenes; there are even echoes of Daphnis et Chloé, written the previous year.  

Originally Ravel planned just two songs but later added the third, the strangest and most hermetic song, as Ravel himself commented.  Debussy described Ravel as having the most refined musical ear ever; he had also decided to set the first two of these poems without realising that Ravel held the rights to their use. However Ravel happily allowed Debussy to proceed with his versions, commenting wryly there would be a Debussy-Ravel contest  as a result. The first performance took place in Paris on January 14th, 1914, with Jane Bathori as soloist.