“And tears are heard within the harp I touch.” - Petrarch
Maurice Ravel was born Joseph-Maurice Ravel on March 7, 1875, in Ciboure, France, to a Basque mother and Swiss father. In 1889, at the age of 14, Ravel began taking courses at the Paris Conservatoire, a prestigious music and dance school located in the capital of France, studying under Gabriel Fauré.
Ravel continued to study at the Conservatoire until his early 20s, during which time he composed some of his most renowned works, including the “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (Pavane for a Dead Princess; 1899); the “Jeux d’eau” (1901), also known as “Fountains”, a piece that Ravel dedicated to Fauré; the “String Quartet” (1903) in F major; the “Sonatine” (circa 1904), for the solo piano; the “Miroirs” (1905); and the “Gaspard de la nuit” (1908).
Ravel's later works include the “Le Tombeau de Couperin”, a suite composed circa 1917 for the solo piano, and the orchestral pieces “Rapsodie espagnole” and “Boléro”. Possibly the most famous of his works, Ravel was commissioned by Sergey Diaghilev to create the ballet “Daphnis et Chloé”, which he completed in 1912. Eight years later, in 1920, he completed “La Valse”, a piece with varying credits as a ballet and concert work. Ravel died in Paris, France, on December 28, 1937. Today, he remains widely regarded as France's most popular composer. He is remembered for once stating: “The only love affair I have ever had was with music.”
“Introduction and Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet and String Quartet” (French: ‘Introduction et allegro pour harpe, flûte, clarinette et quatuor’) was written by Maurice Ravel in 1905. It premiered on 22 February 1907 in Paris. It is written in the key of G-flat major and it is the first piece to explore and exploit the full resources of the chromatic harp. It is sometimes described as a miniature concerto, but it is more usually classified as a genuine chamber music work.
The Introduction and the Allegro are played without a break. The Introduction, Très lent, takes only 26 bars. The Allegro in a modified sonata form begins with the solo harp expanding the material presented before. The woodwinds expose a second theme, accompanied by pizzicato. After a fortississimo climax in the development, a harp cadenza leads to a straightforward recapitulation and a close without extensive fireworks or bombast of any kind. The work takes about 11 minutes to perform.
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