LE JARDIN FÉERIQUE ( THE FAIRY GARDEN)

LE JARDIN FÉERIQUE ( THE FAIRY GARDEN)

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As its title suggests, Ma mère l’oye (Mother Goose) was originally intended for children. Maurice Ravel wrote it as a piano duet for Mimi and Jean Godebski, the six- and seven-year-old children of close friends. After the Godebski siblings surrendered to stage fright, Jeanne Leleu and Geneviève Durony—who were six and ten at the time—debuted the suite in April 1910. The premiere went so well that Ravel arranged the work as a ballet and orchestral suite the following year. The five sections that make up the suite are based on fairy tales by Charles Perrault and other, less famous sources. “The idea of evoking in these pieces the poetry of childhood naturally led me to simplify my style and refine my means of expression,” Ravel wrote. Along with the explicitly programmatic titles, he annotated the score with brief descriptions and quoted extracts.

In Les Entretiens de la Belle et de la Bête (Conversations Between Beauty and the Beast), Ravel juxtaposes the graceful and the grotesque; Beauty waltzes along to lilting wind instruments while the Beast bumbles in as a clumsy contrabassoon. When the spell is broken (listen for an abrupt cymbal followed by an eerie glissando), the Beast turns into a handsome prince, now portrayed by a solo cello, the romantic counterpart to Beauty’s violin. Finally, Le Jardin Féerique (The Fairy Garden) returns to the initial Sleeping Beauty scenario. A sparkling celesta delivers the kiss that restores the princess to consciousness, and wedding bells and fanfares foretell her happy future with Prince Charming.