Ravel Mother Goose Animation

Maurice 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.

Unmarried 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.

Tom 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.

The videos below are accompanied by Scott Brothers Duo's acclaimed recording of Ravel's original piano duet version.

Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty

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 beauty’s 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.
Tom Thumb

The second movement, Tom Thumb (Petit Poucet), is prefaced by the following text:

"He 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."

Ravel 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.

Laideronnette Empress of the Pagodas

The third movement, Laideronnette, Empress of the Pagodas (Laideronnette, Impératrice des Pagodes), also begins with a quotation:

"She 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."

A 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.

Conversation of Beauty and the Beast

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:

Beast: "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.”

The 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 Fairy Garden

The final movement, The Fairy Garden (Le jardin féerique), is a tale of Ravel’s 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 Godmother’s garden and the movement climaxes with fanfares and wedding bells
as they all live happily ever after.


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