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Rapsodie espagnole (Maurice Ravel)




1. Prélude à la nuit – 2. Malagueña – 3. Habanera – 4. Feria.


With the Rapsodie espagnole, composed in 1907-08 and premiered in Paris on 15 March 1908 at the Théâtre du Châtelet, with Édouard Colonne conducting, Ravel made his brilliant début in the symphonic genre, although his genius as an orchestrator had already been glimpsed in the song-cycle Shéhérazade and in his orchestral version of Une barque sur l’océan (third movement of Miroirs). The lavish symphonic version of the Rapsodie espagnole was heard in concert before the originally intended piano duo. Roland-Manuel described its orchestration as “nervous and feline...as smooth as silk”. However, the Habanera had been composed as early as 1895 and premièred on the piano in 1898 as the first part of the Sites auriculaires, before taking its place in the Rapsodie. This third movement is in fact the only one that does not contain the descending four-note motif (F-E-D-C sharp) that resounds hauntingly in the quiet Prélude à la nuit, before reappearing towards the end of the Malagueña and again in the finale. An evocation of Spain, beginning in the mystery of the night, then crowned by the incandescence of a daytime fiesta: that is the impression left by these four tableaux. After the quivering and the voluptuous impulses of the Prélude à la nuit, the Malagueña introduces more intensity. The nonchalant and melancholy Habanera, marked “assez lent et d'un rythme las” (rather slow and with a weary, or drowsy, rhythm), serves as a prelude to the final Feria, whose Dionysian energy is not without ambiguity. Daphnis et Chloé, La Valse and the Boléro were also to end in such exuberance and feverish intoxication, representing both a sumptuous climax and a devastating cataclysm.

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  • RAVEL, Maurice (1875-1937)
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  • Concert – Les sociétés de concert au XIXe siècle