Ravel, M - Le Tombeau de Couperin for flute quartet

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Transcription: Erik Norby
Duration: 22 min.

Published: 2015

Le Tombeau de Couperin is originally a suite for solo piano, composed between 1914 and 1917. It’s in six movements but in 1919 Ravel orchestrated only four movements of the work (Prélude, Forlane, Menuet and Rigaudon.) The Danish composer Erik Norby orchestrated in 1986 these four movements for the Kuhlau flute quartet (two C-flutes, piccolo, alto flute and bass flute.) Because of Erik Norby’s great orchestration ability and vivid perception for Ravel´s music, this seemingly impossible task was brilliant solved. In its new form the “Le Tombeau de Coprerin” became a success both as far as the audience and music critics were concerned. 

Ravel stated that his intention was never to imitate or tribute Couperin himself, but rather was to pay homage to the sensibilities of the Barogue French keyboard suite. This is reflected in the structure which imitates a Baroque dance suite. However, Ravel's neoclassicism shines through with his pointedly twentieth-century chromatic melody and piquant harmonies.

During the World War 1 Ravel himself was an ambulance driver and was wounded while serving. Each movement is dedicated to the memory of friends of the composer who had died fighting in the War. When criticised for composing a light-hearted and sometimes reflective work rather than a sombre one, for such a sombre topic, Ravel replied: "The dead are sad enough, in their eternal silence."

The movements are:

I. Prélude
"To the memory of Lieutenant Jacques Charlot" (who transcribed Ravel's four-hand piece Ma Mére L’Oye for solo piano).

II. Forlane
"To the memory of Lieutenant Gabriel Deluc" (a Basque painter from Saint-Jean-de-Luz). 

III. Menuet
"To the memory of Jean Dreyfus" (at whose home Ravel recuperated after he was demobilized).

IV. Rigaudon
"To the memory of Pierre and Pascal Gaudin" (brothers killed by the same shell).




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