RAVEL Maurice, Sonatine

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Ravel composed his Sonatine in 1903–5, just after finishing the String Quartet and the song-cycle Shéhérazade. After several fruitless attempts to win the Prix de Rome, Ravel finally decided that he should pursue his own musical path, and the Sonatine was one of the first results – a work of great refinement, on a much smaller scale than the piano cycle Miroirs that he worked on at the same time.

Ravel’s title evokes something of the elegance of the Classical period, though from the very start it is obvious that Ravel is not attempting any kind of pastiche. Even so, the first movement is in a clearly defined sonata form. The opening presents a singing theme in octaves with a shimmering accompaniment in the inner parts. The second theme is gentler, supported by typically luminous harmonies. The Minuet is a graceful dance, and the finale is driven by the almost omnipresent rapid notes heard at the start of the movement. There are moments of repose, but the movement surges to a flamboyant conclusion.

Ravel dedicated the Sonatine to his friends Ida and Cipa Godebski. The premiere was given in Lyon on 10 March 1906 by Mme Paule de Lestaing, and first performed in Paris on 31 March 1906, by Gabriel Grovlez.

© Nigel Simeone


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