The Transformations in Orchestrating Ma Mère l’Oye
“It is a great mistake to say: this composer scores well, or, that composition is well orchestrated, for orchestration is part of the very soul of the work.” Rimski-Korsakov could not have said it better. Indeed, the ballet version of Ma Mère l’Oye takes on a soul its very own, far different from the original piano version. This is not to say that the piano version is any less charming as a work of a great composer, but rather, it does not have the facility of resources available in an orchestra. The colorings that are possible in an orchestral setting provides for a wider possibility of text painting, which is what makes Ma Mère l’Oye so interesting. Ravel’s music is more or less known for its tonal color, extra-musical associations, and general impressionistic feeling. This language combined with the resources inherent in an orchestra, put in the hands of Ravel, resulted in the recreation of a fantasy world that is unparalleled in genius, simplicity, and child-like tenderness.
Performance Analysis of Ravel’s “Une barque sur l’océan”
Too often it seems that many theories on Ravel, or vital elements thereof, are in some measure substantiated through a reference to Debussy or some other external benchmark. For the performer on stage playing Miroirs, the concentration must be centered on issues related to Ravel and his musical language. While a comparison to Debussy may shed some theoretical insight to particular inner-workings or crossbreeding of ideas between the two composers, it fails to address the more pressing and basic issue for the performer; how to perform the music. When the score of Miroirs is unfolded before the pianist, the challenge is to understand Ravel’s intentions with this particular set of pieces without forcing an external reference. The performer has a musical responsibility to analyze the music in order to fully understand what to look for. Certainly, it may be prudent to have some understanding of certain significant facts pertaining to Miroirs, including when the work was composed, Ravel’s environment, and the work’s chronological and historical place in the composer’s oeuvre; these areas, to varying extents, can and should be incorporated into an analysis. To be useful to the performer, however, these facts must be applied in such a way that they provide insight on the basis of performance and interpretation, and not purely on intellect. An analysis, while drawing on supporting background facts, must be grounded in a tangible realm, from the score, if it is to be practical. The score poses a myriad of questions but also holds the answers. A detailed score analysis of Ravel’s Miroirs can arm the performer with valuable information about the composer’s musical language. If, through analysis, some of Ravel’s musical language can be ‘decoded,’ then it can provide a basis for a sound interpretation true to the music. While the interpretation will vary between performers, there is an underlying truth and coherence present. Insight is gained through analysis. …