1919: Ravel: Le Tombeau de Couperin: age 44

As I listen to this the words that go through my mind are: charming, gracious, easy to listen to, relaxing, pleasing. It’s not exciting, dramatic or demanding. It’s just a simple, wonderful listening experience. There is a a piano version, which has a very different charm.


  • two flutes (one doubling piccolo), two oboes (one doubling cor anglais), two clarinets, two bassoons
  • two horns, trumpet
  • harp
  • strings

Celibidache, MPO (1984)

It started as a piano suite…

The suite was composed between 1914 and 1917.

Six movements…

All were based on those of a traditional Baroque suite. Each movement is dedicated to the memory of a friend of the composer (or in one case, two brothers) who had died fighting in World War I.

The orchestral version deletes two movements…

The orchestral version from 1919 omitted two of the original movements.


The word “tombeau” in the title is a musical term popular from the 17th century, meaning “a piece written as a memorial”.

François Couperin…

“Couperin” is probably about François Couperin “the Great” (1668–1733). Ravel stated that his intention was to pay homage more generally to the sensibilities of the Baroque French keyboard suite, not necessarily to imitate or pay tribute to Couperin himself in particular.

4 thoughts on “1919: Ravel: Le Tombeau de Couperin: age 44

  1. This piece has always been a bit of a mystery to me. The name suggests an old-fashioned piece, but instead is rather modern. I don’t find it even remotely close to the old French keyboard style (like Couperin himself)

    I agree with your assessment of the piece.

  2. From the title I was expecting to hear very somber music. Instead, I found this to be very relaxing and easy listening. It is quite different from Bolero, another piece, written by Ravel.

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