Ravel’s career as a student at the Paris Conservatoire was a chequered one, culminating in his notorious failure to win the Prix de Rome in 1905. But his teacher Gabriel Fauré, who became the Conservatoire’s director that year, to some extent made up for this in the years following by inviting him to provide test pieces and sit on various juries. His Prélude
, for the ladies’ sight-reading test in 1913, takes a six-note motif from the third of his Mallarmé songs and presents it in modal attire. The winner of the whole competition was Jeanne Leleu who, as one of the pianists who had premiered Ma mère l’oye
three years earlier, might be thought to have had an unfair advantage. Ravel was impressed by her performance of this Prélude
too, and dedicated it to her.
from notes by Roger Nichols © 2011