Hyperion Records

Ronsard à son âme
First line:
Amelette Ronsardelette
1924; Ravel's contribution the the Revue musicale celebrating the 400th anniversary of Ronsard's birth
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'Ravel: Songs' (CDA67728)
Ravel: Songs

Ronsard à son âme
After the War, Ravel’s output slowed markedly and only eight songs date from 1917 to his death twenty years later. It was the time of ‘dépouillement’, of stripping away lavish pre-War costumes to reveal the musculature beneath. As an example of this it would be hard to improve on the song Ronsard à son âme which was Ravel’s contribution, together with those of eight other composers, to a special number of the Revue musicale to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the poet’s birth in 1924. Under three minutes in length, it is the simplest song he ever wrote. The piano part consists mostly of bare fifths for the right hand alone, and Ravel declared it was his favourite among his own songs because he could play and hold a cigarette at the same time. Ronsard’s desire to infuse the French language with the spirit of the classics is matched in Ravel’s setting, also retrospective in its almost Palestrinian regulation of consonance and dissonance. At the same time the piled-up fifths of the final chord would seem to have been borrowed from the last song of Milhaud’s cycle Catalogue de fleurs, premiered as recently as 1922. Ravel touched on his song’s valedictory quality in a letter to Falla: ‘I’ve written my Epitaphe, or at least Ronsard’s, and I’ve put as much zest into it as if it was destined for me.’

from notes by Roger Nichols © 2009

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