Hyperion Records

Don Quichotte à Dulcinée
comissioned in June 1932 for a film by Georg Pabst but not completed in time for use
author of text

'Ravel: Songs' (CDA67728)
Ravel: Songs
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67728 
No 1: Chanson romanesque  Si vous me disiez que la terre
No 2: Chanson épique  Bon Saint Michel qui me donnez loisir
No 3: Chanson à boire  Foin du bâtard, illustre Dame

Don Quichotte à Dulcinée
Ravel’s last three songs, Don Quichotte à Dulcinée, were the result of a commission for a film about the Spanish knight directed by the Austrian film-maker Georg Pabst, with Chaliapin in the title role. The contract of June 1932 specified a serenade, a heroic song and a comic one, with a deadline of August and a warning that Chaliapin preferred not to have too many high Cs, Ds or E flats. In the event Ravel was dilatory in coming up with the goods and Ibert was engaged for the film instead.

The songs portray the noble lunatic as lover, holy warrior and drinker, and Ravel with typical fastidiousness chose three distinct types of dance rhythm to illustrate these facets. The first, Chanson romanesque, is a quajira, a Spanish dance with alternating bars of 6/8 and 3/4. The harmonic progressions and the grateful curve of the melody recall Ravel’s beloved Chabrier with a simplicity of means that has little in common with the style dépouillé. The song ends with the apostrophe ‘Ô Dulcinée’, as blind love overwhelms the verbal conceits. For the Chanson épique Ravel chose the 5/4 of the Basque zortzico. Here the chordal accompaniment and modal inflections recall not so much Chabrier as Ravel’s teacher Fauré. The final Chanson à boire celebrates the only real attribute of the Don, and Ravel accentuates this realism both by the cumulative, insistent cross-rhythms of the jota and by a strictly strophic setting of the two verses. Cunningly, he manages to build into the music the longueurs and exaggerations typical of the drunkard.

from notes by Roger Nichols © 2009

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