VISIT WESTCORKMUSIC.IE

LATEST ADDITION TO THE ARCHIVE

Chansons madécasses

Maurice Ravel (b. 1875 - d. 1937)

Adam Walker

Adam Walker

Composer
Maurice Ravel (b. 1875 - d. 1937)
Composition Year
1925-6
Work Movements
1. Nahandove
2. Aoua!
3. Il est doux de se coucher
Artists
Adrian Brendel [cello], Anna Reinhold [mezzo], Adam Walker [flute], José Gallardo [piano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

Ravel was commissioned by the famous American music patron, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, to compose a song cycle for voice, flute, cello and piano. Ravel chose the poetry of Evariste Parnay, an eighteenth century disciple of Jean-Jaques Rousseau. These Madagascan Songs have an exotic eroticism about them as well as a strongly anti-colonial political stand. This was strong enough to provoke some reaction at a time when French troops were fighting in Morocco. Musically the composer described it as a sort of quartet where the voice is the principal instrument…simplicity dominates. Like most composers, Ravel had serious problems with his muse and this work had to compete for his attention with the violin sonata that he had been struggling with for two years, which was to take another two years to finish. After several postponements, the work was finally premiered in the American Embassy in Rome in May 1926.

Ravel treats his voluptuous text with great simplicity; instead of sensuously curving lines and caressing instrumental textures, he casts his spell on the incantatory name of the beloved – Nahandove. The repetitions of this magical name linger on the air much longer than the burning embraces and piercing kisses. The sighs of the flute and cello are all the more potent for the sparseness of the instrumentation.

Once you have heard it, you never forget the great warcry of Aoua! that opens the savage second song. The assault of the voice, combined with violent dissonance in the piano, has a shocking power. The story of the treachery of the whites and their brutal fate is told, as a sorrowful flute mourns amongst the primitive ostinato in the piano part. The dramatic acceleration of the tempo, along with upward transpositions of the rhythmic fever, leads to the terrible climax and the final appalled sadness at the betrayal and the threat to liberty.

The last song is a gentle hymn to the erotic languor of the exotic island, achieved with the simplest of effects; a murmured wisp of a melody in the flute, single notes dropping from the piano, the sensuous weaving of the voice, a brief rhythmic interlude for the slow dance, the gentleness of the caressing wind leading to the final matter-of-fact instruction. 

FULL DETAILS SEARCH FOR MORE

Chansons madécasses

Composer: Maurice Ravel (b. 1875 - d. 1937)
Performance date: Thursday 7th July 2016
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

Share on Twitter | Share on Facebook
http://archive.westcorkmusic.ie/details/view/cmf/601

Composer Maurice Ravel (b. 1875 - d. 1937)
Work Title Chansons madécasses
Composition Year 1925-6
Work Movements 1. Nahandove
2. Aoua!
3. Il est doux de se coucher
Artist(s) Adrian Brendel [cello], Anna Reinhold [mezzo], Adam Walker [flute], José Gallardo [piano]
Performance Date Thursday 7th July 2016
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Crespo Series
Duration 00:14:35
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Small Mixed Ensemble
Instrumentation Mezzo, fl, vc, pf
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

Ravel was commissioned by the famous American music patron, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, to compose a song cycle for voice, flute, cello and piano. Ravel chose the poetry of Evariste Parnay, an eighteenth century disciple of Jean-Jaques Rousseau. These Madagascan Songs have an exotic eroticism about them as well as a strongly anti-colonial political stand. This was strong enough to provoke some reaction at a time when French troops were fighting in Morocco. Musically the composer described it as a sort of quartet where the voice is the principal instrument…simplicity dominates. Like most composers, Ravel had serious problems with his muse and this work had to compete for his attention with the violin sonata that he had been struggling with for two years, which was to take another two years to finish. After several postponements, the work was finally premiered in the American Embassy in Rome in May 1926.

Ravel treats his voluptuous text with great simplicity; instead of sensuously curving lines and caressing instrumental textures, he casts his spell on the incantatory name of the beloved – Nahandove. The repetitions of this magical name linger on the air much longer than the burning embraces and piercing kisses. The sighs of the flute and cello are all the more potent for the sparseness of the instrumentation.

Once you have heard it, you never forget the great warcry of Aoua! that opens the savage second song. The assault of the voice, combined with violent dissonance in the piano, has a shocking power. The story of the treachery of the whites and their brutal fate is told, as a sorrowful flute mourns amongst the primitive ostinato in the piano part. The dramatic acceleration of the tempo, along with upward transpositions of the rhythmic fever, leads to the terrible climax and the final appalled sadness at the betrayal and the threat to liberty.

The last song is a gentle hymn to the erotic languor of the exotic island, achieved with the simplest of effects; a murmured wisp of a melody in the flute, single notes dropping from the piano, the sensuous weaving of the voice, a brief rhythmic interlude for the slow dance, the gentleness of the caressing wind leading to the final matter-of-fact instruction.