Chansons madécasses

Composer: Maurice Ravel (b. 1875 - d. 1937)
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Composer: Maurice Ravel (b. 1875 - d. 1937)

Performance date: 07/07/2016

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1925-6

Duration: 00:14:35

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation Category:Small Mixed Ensemble

Instrumentation Other: Mezzo, fl, vc, pf

Artists: Adrian Brendel - [cello]
Anna Reinhold - [mezzo-soprano]
Adam Walker - [flute]
José Gallardo - [piano]

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
. 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.

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.

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.

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.