1908: Ravel: Rapsodie Espagnole: age 33

Cliff Colnot/DePaul Symphony Orchestra

  1. Prélude à la nuit
  2. Malagueña
  3. Habanera
  4. Feria

Rapsodie espagnole is an orchestral rhapsody written by Maurice Ravel. Composed between 1907 and 1908, the Rapsodie is one of Ravel’s first major works for orchestra. It was first performed in Paris in 1908 and quickly entered the international repertoire. The piece draws on the composer’s Spanish heritage and is one of several of his works set in or reflecting Spain.

1st movement

.Prélude à la nuit

The movement is marked très modéré; the time signature is 3
4 and the key is A major. The whole movement is quiet, never rising above mezzo forte; the strings are muted throughout. As in the String Quartet of three years earlier Ravel places themes in the opening movement that recur in subsequent sections, most particularly the insistent opening theme, F–E–D–C♯.

2nd movement

2. Malagueña

This is the shortest of the four movements, and is marked assez vif (“fairly lively”). Malagueña refers to a flamenco dance from the southern Spanish province of Málaga, but Ravel’s music here has only the 3
4 meter in common with the authentic dance.[9] The movement is instead what the critic Noël Goodwin calls “more a romantic evocation of place and mood”.[10] Like the first movement, it is in the key of A, though slightly ambiguous as to whether it is major or minor. The movement ends quietly with a repeat of the four note phrase that opens the first movement.[9]

3rd movement

3. Habanera

The movement, in 2
4 and switching between F♯ major and minor, is marked assez lent et d’un rythme las (“rather slow and with a drowsy rhythm”).[9] Goodwin describes it as “beguiling and subtle in its expression of a thoroughly Spanish character and spirit”.[11]

4th movement

4. Feria

Feria (Festival), in 6
8 and C major, is marked assez animé (“fairly lively”). It is the longest of the four movements, and is the first point in the score at which Ravel, in Nichols’s phrase allows “the élan that has so far been deliberately stifled” to break out. The boisterous carnival atmosphere has undertones of nostalgia, but exuberance triumphs and the work ends in a joyful burst of orchestral colour.[9]


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