The spirit of Chabrier lies behind the central section of the Menuet antique
of 1895, the first of Ravel’s works to be published (in 1898). The piece’s ‘antiquity’ comes out in the flattened leading notes of cadences. Altogether more modern, and Ravelian, are the harmonic scrunches, beginning with the very first chord, that lend impetus to the imitative lines which follow. Rhythmically too, Ravel plays games with the minuet form, often grouping his phrases in twos rather than threes.
The first public performance of the Menuet was given on 18 April 1898 by a pianist and friend who was to prove an invaluable champion of Ravel’s music for most of the next decade. Ricardo Viñes, a Spaniard who had become a friend of Ravel at the Conservatoire, was a brilliant pianist with an exceptional range of keyboard colours (according to one acquaintance, ‘an express bar of delights’).
from notes by Roger Nichols ę 2011