Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Ma mère l'Oye (Mother Goose)
(arranged for wind quintet by David Nissen)

I - Pavane de la Belle au bois dormant (Sleeping Beauty's Pavane)
II - Petit Poucet (Tom Thumb)
III - Laideronnette, Impératrice des Pagodes (Empress of the Pagodas)
IV - Les entretiens de la Belle et de la Bête (Conversations of Beauty and the Beast)

Ravel's Ma mère l'Oye, based on fairy tales by Péricault, was written for Mimie and Jean Godebski, children of friends of the composer, and demonstrates his sympathies with infants and 'imagined' life. The original five movements (all of them miniatures) were composed for piano (four hands) between 1908 and 1910, when the work was first performed; Ravel then orchestrated the work in 1911, with additional movements, to be produced as a ballet the following year. This wind quintet arrangement of the first four of the original movements - the last, 'Le jardin féerique' ('The Fairy Garden') would not translate well for such an ensemble - preserves many of the ingenious orchestral effects for which Ravel was renowned.

The first movement is a slow Pavane in which the flute floats mysteriously over the other instruments, and the seeming absence of direction of the music (coupled to its modality) reflects the dormant forest in which Sleeping Beauty is imprisoned. The following movement is full of character and imagination yet confined (by a soft dynamic, for example), in order to convey the restrictions of Tom Thumb by his height. Notable features include the constantly changing time signature, and the use of pseudo birdsong. The third, which represents the Empress of the Pagodas, conjures up images of majesty through the pentatonic theme passed between flute and oboe; only once is the Empress interrupted, by a more stately passage using longer note values. In the final movement, notable for its chromatic writing, the clarinet is cast as Beauty and the bassoon as the Beast, who towards the end (following an oboe cadenza) is magically transformed into Prince Charming. CMW

© The Arethusa Ensemble