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Prélude (d'un rythme libre)

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Prélude (d’un rythme libre)

1913 saw the appearance of three short piano pieces. Prélude was written as a Conservatoire test piece; its asymmetric phrasing (3 bars + 2 + 4 + 6) and its surprisingly expressive intensity lift it above mere ’occasional’ status. The two pastiches A la manière de ... Borodine, Chabrier are carefully sited half-way between Borodin, Chabrier and Ravel so that a real indebtedness is acknowledged and manifested. The Borodin piece shows what he’s learned (compare it with No.4 of Valses nobles et sentimentales) and what he’s rejected - the big, rhetorical ’passionate’, climax. The deliciously witty Chabrier piece is a double parody - Ravel in the style of Chabrier improvising on a theme of Gounod. If confirmation were needed of the real sophistication of these pieces it could easily be found by comparing them with the uncomprehending doodlings of Alfredo Casella (particularly his A la manière de Ravel) published in the same volume.

© Paul Crossley 1983

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