Ravel (1875-1937) wrote Mother Goose (Ma Mère l'Oye) in 1910 as
a duet for two young piano students, Mimi and Jean Godebski (the dedicatees),
the children of his friends Cipa and Ida Godebski.
and childless, Ravel adored children, and their world of fantasy. He sought
to write piano music that could be played by children, as well as reflecting
the world of childhood. Subtitled "cinq pièces enfantines",
Mother Goose draws upon the fairy-tales of Perrault which were as well-known
in Ravel's time as they are today.
Scott has created animations which not only complement Ravels beautiful
score, but bring to life the fairy tales described within each movement,
in the hope that audiences young and old will gain an even greater enjoyment
of this wonderfully programmatic score.
videos below are accompanied by Scott Brothers Duo's acclaimed recording
of Ravel's original piano duet version.
The first movement, Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty (Pavane de la Belle
au bois dormant) is only 20 bars long but concentrates a great deal of
grace and beauty into that small space, suggesting the quiet atmosphere
of the beautys perpetual slumber. Ravel wrote that "the idea
of evoking in these pieces the poetry of childhood naturally led me to
simplify my style and to refine my means of expression". It is the
simplification of style and expression which makes this movement so magical.
The second movement, Tom Thumb (Petit Poucet), is prefaced by the following
thought that he could easily find his way home by the bread crumbs that
he had dropped along the path, but he was very surprised when he found
that he could not find a single crumb--birds had eaten them all."
creates a sense of bewilderment and unease with an accompaniment of constantly
shifting meter and a plaintive melody which is searching for a way home.
The birds are clearly audible at the top of the piano as they
chirp and twitter whilst eating the crumbs.
The third movement, Laideronnette, Empress of the Pagodas (Laideronnette,
Impératrice des Pagodes), also begins with a quotation:
undressed herself and went into the bath. The pagodes and pagodines began
to sing and play on instruments. Some had oboes made of walnut shells
and others had violas made of almond shells--for they had to have instruments
that were of their own small proportions."
pagoda is a Chinese figurine with a grotesque face and a movable head
(a popular decorating accessory in 18th-century France). In the story,
Laideronnette is a Chinese princess who has been cursed with horrible
ugliness and wanders for years with her only companion, an equally ugly
green serpent. They are shipwrecked in the island of the pagodas and the
little porcelain people take her as their queen. Eventually, she marries
the serpent and they are both transformed into a beautiful princess and
handsome prince. Ravel's use of pentatonic melodies and his Gamelan-like
piano writing give this movement a quasi-Oriental feel.
The fourth movement is titled Conversation of Beauty and the Beast (Les
Entretiens de la Belle et de la Bête) and Ravel's score includes
a dialogue from the story:
"I will die happy because I have had the pleasure of seeing you again."
Beauty: "No my dear Beast, you will not die - you will live to
become my husband."
.........and the Beast disappeared and a Prince more handsome than love
thanked her for breaking his spell.
first two sections of music depict the Beauty with a graceful lilting
waltz. The Beast is easily recognised by the deep grotesque notes played
at the bass of the piano. When Beauty declares her love, their melodies
are combined. A magical glissando signals that the beast has been transformed
to his former state, a handsome prince.
The final movement, The Fairy Garden (Le jardin féerique), is a
tale of Ravels own imagination. It brings the work full circle and
depicts the awakening of the Sleeping Beauty by a kiss from Prince Charming.
They process through the Fairy Godmothers garden and the movement
climaxes with fanfares and wedding bells
as they all live happily ever after.