RAVEL Maurice, Sonata for violin and cello

Très vif
Vif, avec entrain

In 1920, Ravel was asked to contribute to a musical supplement in memory of Debussy for the Revue musicale (other contributors included Bartók, Satie and Stravinsky). This ‘Tombeau’ for Debussy (with a front cover specially drawn by Dufy) appeared in December 1920 and included a ‘Duo’ for violin and cello that would become the first movement of the Sonata for Violin and Cello. It was another two years before Ravel completed the other movements and the whole work was published in 1922 with a dedication to Debussy’s memory. Ravel himself described the austere, pared-down language of the Sonata as ‘stripped to the bone’ and said that ‘harmonic charm is renounced’. The Sonata is also remarkable for its thematic unity, and some ingenious cyclic transformations. For instance, the violin theme heard at the start returns later in the work as do other ideas. The Scherzo suggests that Ravel was familiar with Kodály’s 1914 Duo for violin and cello: Ravel includes elements of Hungarian music in a movement of formidable drive and energy. The slow movement is stark and serious and after building slowly to an impassioned climax, its ending is remote and strange. The finale is brilliantly written for both instruments, bringing this extraordinary work to an athletic close, the dissonances finally resolving on to a chord of C major.

© Nigel Simeone 2018


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