The success of Emmanuel Chabrier’s orchestral piece España
(1883) established a trend for music by French composers in a Spanish style which became so popular that one cynical commentator stated that all the best Spanish music was being written by French composers. Even Debussy (who visited Spain only once, for one day) was moved to write Ibéria
as the second part of his Images
for orchestra. Though something of a rebel as a young composer, the idea nevertheless captivated the thirty-two-year-old Maurice Ravel, and it was while he was composing his opera L’Heure espagnole
in 1907 that he created his vocalise-étude
, Pièce en forme de habañera
. Being for wordless voice, it does of course lend itself very well to instrumental performance, and the versatile tenor register of the bassoon seems to me to be an ideal voice for this subtle, expressive music, especially with Arthur Hoérée’s delicious orchestration made in 1930.
from notes by Laurence Perkins © 2004