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French Composers With a Note on Maurice Ravel s Latest Work

French Composers With a Note on Maurice Ravel s Latest Work

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French Composers: With a Note on Maurice Ravel's Latest WorkAuthor(s): Scott GoddardSource:
The Musical Times,
Vol. 66, No. 988 (Jun. 1, 1925), pp. 503-505Published by: Musical Times Publications Ltd.Stable URL:
Accessed: 04/12/2009 14:00
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THEMUSICALTIMES-JUNEI
1925
HEMUSICALTIMES-JUNEI
1925
frombeingreallysimple,exceptperhapsin afewoftheMazurkas ?-thepartof hisworkwhich is solittleingeneralfavourastojustifytheconclusion thatitisnotdeeplycharacteristicof thecomposer.Onemightaskthesamequestionof Lisztif onecouldbe surethatasacomposerhewas a truegenius.Canitbethat to thefastidiousChopinsome secretwaswithheldwhich was revealedto thebourgeoisSchubert;andcanthishavehappenedpreciselybecausethe one wasfastidious andlivedin salonsand the other wasbourgeoisand drank beer?FRENCH COMPOSERS:WITH ANOTEONMAURICERAVEL'SLATEST WORK
BySCOTTGODDARD
It is nolongertobe doubted thatthetimehascome whenthe attentionofmusicians which hasbeen solongfocussedonthingsFrenchisbeingturnedelsewhere.Thechangehas takenplacesogentlyasto bealmostimperceptible.Itwillcertainlyremainincomprehensibleto thesectionalmusician for sometimeto come. But thefactremains that Parishasceased to beinthevanguardof musicalevolution.It hasgivenupthatplacewhich itsoclearlyseemed tohold atthe timeofthe VersaillesTreaty.Sincethen themusicthathas come fromParis-withtheexceptionofwhatStravinsky,who isnotveryFrench,hasputforth-hasshownapre-occupationwithquestionsofstyle,with theperfectionandelaborationofwhathasalreadybeenattained,but not atallwithfreshendeavour. Itisnotasyeteasytosee wheretheforwardmovementinmusic willmostdefinitelyshowitself.PossiblyinSpain,wheredeFallacontinuestostrengthenhispositionas apoeticcraftsman.MoreprobablyamongtheAustrians,whoacknowledge Schonbergastheirsourceofinspiration.Butwherever itgoes,it hasalreadyleftFrance,andthe time isnotfardistantwhen a criticalsurvey maybemade of theachievementsof the Parisianschool(orschools)ofcomposition.Withinthelast few monthstwooutstandingandwidely-differentexamplesofmodern French musichave been heardinLondon.Oneofthemisin connection with the season ofballet thatM.DiaghilevproducedattheColiseumwhen'Le TrainBleu,'byDariusMilhaud,wasgiven.TheotherimportantoccurrenceisthefirstperformanceformanyyearsinthiscountryofVincentd'Indy'sPianoforte SonatainEminor,byMr.AngusMorrisonatWigmoreHallonJanuaryi2last. Between these twoaspectsofmodernFrenchmusic agulfisfixed.Thedistance betweenthe twoisgreaterthanthatwhichexistsbetweenRavel,to take asingle instance,andeitherofthem. Foritisundeniable thatifM.Cocteau,thespokesmanof theyoung group,justdelicatelysneers at Ravel andhiswork,heignoresd'Indyand hisoutputaltogetherasbeingnegligibleintheireffectupontheonwardmarchoffrombeingreallysimple,exceptperhapsin afewoftheMazurkas ?-thepartof hisworkwhich is solittleingeneralfavourastojustifytheconclusion thatitisnotdeeplycharacteristicof thecomposer.Onemightaskthesamequestionof Lisztif onecouldbe surethatasacomposerhewas a truegenius.Canitbethat to thefastidiousChopinsome secretwaswithheldwhich was revealedto thebourgeoisSchubert;andcanthishavehappenedpreciselybecausethe one wasfastidious andlivedin salonsand the other wasbourgeoisand drank beer?FRENCH COMPOSERS:WITH ANOTEONMAURICERAVEL'SLATEST WORK
BySCOTTGODDARD
It is nolongertobe doubted thatthetimehascome whenthe attentionofmusicians which hasbeen solongfocussedonthingsFrenchisbeingturnedelsewhere.Thechangehas takenplacesogentlyasto bealmostimperceptible.Itwillcertainlyremainincomprehensibleto thesectionalmusician for sometimeto come. But thefactremains that Parishasceased to beinthevanguardof musicalevolution.It hasgivenupthatplacewhich itsoclearlyseemed tohold atthe timeofthe VersaillesTreaty.Sincethen themusicthathas come fromParis-withtheexceptionofwhatStravinsky,who isnotveryFrench,hasputforth-hasshownapre-occupationwithquestionsofstyle,with theperfectionandelaborationofwhathasalreadybeenattained,but not atallwithfreshendeavour. Itisnotasyeteasytosee wheretheforwardmovementinmusic willmostdefinitelyshowitself.PossiblyinSpain,wheredeFallacontinuestostrengthenhispositionas apoeticcraftsman.MoreprobablyamongtheAustrians,whoacknowledge Schonbergastheirsourceofinspiration.Butwherever itgoes,it hasalreadyleftFrance,andthe time isnotfardistantwhen a criticalsurvey maybemade of theachievementsof the Parisianschool(orschools)ofcomposition.Withinthelast few monthstwooutstandingandwidely-differentexamplesofmodern French musichave been heardinLondon.Oneofthemisin connection with the season ofballet thatM.DiaghilevproducedattheColiseumwhen'Le TrainBleu,'byDariusMilhaud,wasgiven.TheotherimportantoccurrenceisthefirstperformanceformanyyearsinthiscountryofVincentd'Indy'sPianoforte SonatainEminor,byMr.AngusMorrisonatWigmoreHallonJanuaryi2last. Between these twoaspectsofmodernFrenchmusic agulfisfixed.Thedistance betweenthe twoisgreaterthanthatwhichexistsbetweenRavel,to take asingle instance,andeitherofthem. Foritisundeniable thatifM.Cocteau,thespokesmanof theyoung group,justdelicatelysneers at Ravel andhiswork,heignoresd'Indyand hisoutputaltogetherasbeingnegligibleintheireffectupontheonwardmarchofFrenchmusic.And,conversely,ifd'Indyholdsoutthe handoffriendshiptoRavelwithadignifiedcondescension,he willhavenothingtodowith theseyounger peopleorwith theirMaitred'Auteuil,M.Satie.Andthus thechasmwidensyear by year,workbywork.Alld'Indy'spredilectionsstartfrom thepointwhereCesarFranckplacedhimduringtheyearsinwhichhe learntfrom thatmaster.Addedto this thereisthevieillenoblesseofhisancestrywhichfittedhim forthe romanticclassicism ofFranckandhiscircle.Heunderwentthatschoolingtothe utmost extentofhis,and ofits,powers;wrotearemarkablereminiscent,criticalbiographyof hismaster;and now-headoftheSchola Cantorumthatheand CharlesBordesfounded,itselfatangentfromthe Franck circle-sustains thepositionofleaderofthe classicistsectionofFrenchcomposers.ThePianoforte SonatainE minor is classicalinshape:its economy of material isverystern.Two themes dominatethewhole work.Theyarethegermfrom whichspringseverymelodicoutline thatappearsastheworkgoesforward.Thiseconomyismanagedwithgreatsubtlety.Thecommonrelationshipis never so insisteduponasto become obvious.Attheopeningathemeand four variations arecombinedintowhatapproximatescloselytothe formofthe firstmovementofaclassical sonata.Thelastmovementofthethreepassesin review thethematic materialoftheprecedingones.Asmightbeexpected,thestrongestinfluence that isfelt in this workisthatofCesarFranck.Inshapeofphrase,intechniqueofpianofortewriting,inmanymomentsofloftyexpressiveness,Franck'sexampleisthemotiveforce. Fromthisaffinity d'Indy goes forward,however,fartherthanFranck everdreamedofgoing.Heis lessdetached,spiritually,thanhismaster,and is awaketo sensations moremundane.Franck studiedfairly deeply,or,atleast,readfar,intoBeethoven,and inpassingonto hispupilsthe result ofthatattachment,transformed the Beethovenic ideasandideals intosomething quiteother thanthoseBeethovenhimselfstood for. InFranck the lateBeethoven found aresting-placethat wasallsoftnessandsuavity,whereangularitywasroundedoff androughnessplaneddown.Thecuriousthingis,however,thatwithoutthelater BeethovenFranckcould not have writtenhispianofortepiecesastheynowstand,and thattheinfluence,thoughsotempered,isstill sostrong.D'Indy seems,foronce,tohavebeencharyofacceptinghismaster'sreadingsofBeethoven,andtohavegonehimselftotheoriginalsource.There hehasfoundmore than Franck ever allowedfor,andinthisSonatatheinfluenceofBeethoven,enlargingthe boundsofformandprocedure,makinguse ofthevirtuosityof thepianofortein aruthlesslymasterfulway,surpassestheless virile methods oftheFranck school.To theampledesignofBeethovenandthegracefulphrasesofFranck,other influencesarejoined.Theworkis,infact,Frenchmusic.And,conversely,ifd'Indyholdsoutthe handoffriendshiptoRavelwithadignifiedcondescension,he willhavenothingtodowith theseyounger peopleorwith theirMaitred'Auteuil,M.Satie.Andthus thechasmwidensyear by year,workbywork.Alld'Indy'spredilectionsstartfrom thepointwhereCesarFranckplacedhimduringtheyearsinwhichhe learntfrom thatmaster.Addedto this thereisthevieillenoblesseofhisancestrywhichfittedhim forthe romanticclassicism ofFranckandhiscircle.Heunderwentthatschoolingtothe utmost extentofhis,and ofits,powers;wrotearemarkablereminiscent,criticalbiographyof hismaster;and now-headoftheSchola Cantorumthatheand CharlesBordesfounded,itselfatangentfromthe Franck circle-sustains thepositionofleaderofthe classicistsectionofFrenchcomposers.ThePianoforte SonatainE minor is classicalinshape:its economy of material isverystern.Two themes dominatethewhole work.Theyarethegermfrom whichspringseverymelodicoutline thatappearsastheworkgoesforward.Thiseconomyismanagedwithgreatsubtlety.Thecommonrelationshipis never so insisteduponasto become obvious.Attheopeningathemeand four variations arecombinedintowhatapproximatescloselytothe formofthe firstmovementofaclassical sonata.Thelastmovementofthethreepassesin review thethematic materialoftheprecedingones.Asmightbeexpected,thestrongestinfluence that isfelt in this workisthatofCesarFranck.Inshapeofphrase,intechniqueofpianofortewriting,inmanymomentsofloftyexpressiveness,Franck'sexampleisthemotiveforce. Fromthisaffinity d'Indy goes forward,however,fartherthanFranck everdreamedofgoing.Heis lessdetached,spiritually,thanhismaster,and is awaketo sensations moremundane.Franck studiedfairly deeply,or,atleast,readfar,intoBeethoven,and inpassingonto hispupilsthe result ofthatattachment,transformed the Beethovenic ideasandideals intosomething quiteother thanthoseBeethovenhimselfstood for. InFranck the lateBeethoven found aresting-placethat wasallsoftnessandsuavity,whereangularitywasroundedoff androughnessplaneddown.Thecuriousthingis,however,thatwithoutthelater BeethovenFranckcould not have writtenhispianofortepiecesastheynowstand,and thattheinfluence,thoughsotempered,isstill sostrong.D'Indy seems,foronce,tohavebeencharyofacceptinghismaster'sreadingsofBeethoven,andtohavegonehimselftotheoriginalsource.There hehasfoundmore than Franck ever allowedfor,andinthisSonatatheinfluenceofBeethoven,enlargingthe boundsofformandprocedure,makinguse ofthevirtuosityof thepianofortein aruthlesslymasterfulway,surpassestheless virile methods oftheFranck school.To theampledesignofBeethovenandthegracefulphrasesofFranck,other influencesarejoined.Theworkis,infact,50303
 
THEMUSICALTIMES-JUNE
I1925
a historian'scomposition.Nowit istherhythmoftheRussiancomposers,now theharmoniesofDebussy.Theworkasawhole is amassiveconglomerationofaffinities,acomprehensiveover-sightofthe attainmentsofthelasthundredyearsormore.Andyetwhenallthishasbeensaid,thereremainsover sufficientvitalityintheconception,enoughpersonalityin the work-manshipofphrasesandmovements,togivetheworkareasonable existenceofits ownapartfromquestionsofextraneous sourcesofinspiration.Aboveall,the Sonataisdeeplyandsincerelyfelt.It isalsovery soundlyconstructed.It willhardly appealat firsthearingeventothemostreceptiveaudience. Thereisaterseseveritysurroundingitsmelodies,and thereisnot muchin it thatpleases instantaneously.Familiaritywiththescorebringstolightanincreasingnumberofexamplesof finethoughtand delicateappreciationofthevaluesoftoneandline.TheSonatacanbe'placedwith Ravel's'GasparddelaNuit'(writtenin
I908,
ayearlaterthand'Indy'swork)as oneofthehighestachievementsofcontemporaryFrenchpianofortemusic.Thedifferences betweenthe two worksare obvious.Thethingsexpressed,andthemethod oftheirexpression,arebothdissimilar.Theworksare alikeinthewayinwhichtheybothsucceedindoing thingson thepianofortethatcould nothave beendone withthe same amountof effectivenessonanyother instrumentorcombinationofinstruments.Theyarepurepianofortemusic,bothslightly tingedwith theinfluenceof Liszt'stechniqueofpianoforte playing.Acomparisonof the twocompositions instantlyrevealsdivergenceofoutlook,but shows asclearlytheperfectionof formthat French musicalwayspossesses,strengthened byadepthofmeaningthatisperhapsmoreunusual.Betweend'Indyandthe 'PEcole d'Auteuil'there standsthe nowsolitary figureofRavel.Intheretirementofacountryexistence Ravelpursueswithundisturbedcomposureawaythat ishiddenfromall.Having earlybeenexaltedintoa sort ofenfantterribleofhisart,hehasnowcometo beconsidered a kind ofDonQuixote.(InthissignificationitmaybeallowedtoconsiderM.RolandManuelas his SanchoPanza.)Suspectedalikebytheclassicistsandbytheyounger groups,uneasily acknowledgedto beyetasfull ofvitalityasever,heoccupiesapositionabovethe battle. Fromtime to timehethrowsout afresh work to beworriedatbytheopposingfactions.He is asdifficult tolabelas ever.Itisasimpossibleas everitwasto foresee his nextmove. Hedoesnotshrinkfromholdingtheviewthatitis notneedfultoholdanyviewat all.Itmayeven bethat hedoesnotclearlysee whitherheisgoingorwhat hisgoalis.Inthatcasehewouldassuredlybethefirsttopleadguiltyto thecharge.He shareswithSchonbergthisgiftofthetentativeexplorer'shumble-mindedness.Nonethe lessitcanhardlybe said withjustifica-tion that because of thisuncertaintyhe willnotgoahead ofthepointthathehasalreadyreached.Hispurelytechnicalgiftsareundeniablyservice-able.Theroadheis travellingseemstobeanarduous an,dcircuitousone.Inthemeantime,while the'Ecoled'Auteuil' feelsitselfsuperiortohim,he removeshimself everfartherawayfromit and whatitstands for.Itisprobablethathe it iswho willeffectajunctionbetween theParisianandViennese idioms.AlreadyintheDuetSonata(forviolinand'cello)heseems tobedirectinghis worktowards thatpoint.Maurice Ravel'slatestwork,producedat MonteCarloinMarch,is a'Lyric Fantasy'intwopartswithno breakbetween.Thelibretto isbyColette,theauthoresswhohas made ither aimtointerpretthestateof mind ofanimals, givingthemanalmosthumanimpress.Atthe sametimesheseems to havetingedherreallyhumancharacters,such asClaudinein'LaRetraite Sentimentale'and Renee in'LaVagabonde,'withacuriousanddisquietinganimalism. In this littleplaywhichRavelhasset,'L'EnfantetlesSortileges'('TheChild andtheEnchantment'),Colettehas takenanimals for thelargernumber ofcharacters.Andthoughthechildiscertainlyalittlebeast,he isa'beast'intheschool-boysenseof theword,notat allan animal likeColette'sother heroesandheroines.Theplayrepresentsthe chastisement andeventualrepentanceof thisbeastlylittleboy,whohasalwaysdelightedinpullingthewingsoffflies,pinninglivedragon-fliestothewall,pullingthe cat'stail,pokingthecaged squirrelwith apin,andcruellyannoyingall thatsurroundhim. Thesceneopenswith theentryofhis Motherintothenursery,and hisrefusalto'be agoodboy.'Sheleaveshimwith hispunishment-rations,andheexultsinhisnaughtiness,pouringwateron thefire,slashingthehangingswith thepoker,untilsuddenlythe oldeasy-chairstarts to move acrossthe roomand,tothechild'shorror andamazement,startsacolloquyanddancewiththelittle LouisXV.chair.Thetwotell eachother of thebad treat-menttheyhavereceivedat the hands of the horridlittleboy,and in turn theotherpiecesof furnituremoveandtalk,allvowingvengeance.Thepiecesof torntapestryriseup,and thefiguresofshepherdsandshepherdessesdancesadly.The tornfragmentsofapicture-book stir,and fromout of the midstof them there comes aFairyPrincesswho mournsher brokenlife.Thechildgoesto thefire,inhisfright.Thefirespitsathim. Thecats comeinand make lovebeforehiseyes.He finds himselfinthegarden(thesecondpartoftheopera),andhears thetreemoan over itsbleedingbark cutbyaknife.Theanimalsthreatenhim-bats,owls,squirrels.(Itis likethesceneinthe forestinKennethGrahame's 'WindintheWillows,'wheretheanimalsgetlostin the winterdark.)Suddenlyalltheenragedbeastsfallon the child andstartrendinghim.Inthefighthemanagestocreeptoacorner,andthere findsalittlesquirrelwith awoundedpaw.He has amomentinwhich to504

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