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SPRING, 1977 


The early works of a composer often do not warrant close 
examination other than to trace the process of his development and 
maturity. Maurice Ravel is one of the exceptions to this rule; the 
style he maintained throughout his career was established in his 
early works. The Sonatine is numbered among them. In the context 
of his total contribution to the piano repertoire it has been over¬ 
shadowed somewhat by his more virtuosic compositions. For this rea¬ 
son, and because it provides an excellent introduction to his piano 
music, it is the author’s purpose to examine its history and con¬ 

The essay provides a brief sketch of the composer—his 
appearance, personality traits, personal tastes, musical training, 
and technique. The circumstances surrounding the composition of 
the Sonatine are given, as well as the general style characteristics 
of the piano music written prior to it. 

The analysis of the Sonatine includes an examination of 
distinctive melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic features, texture, and 
formal structure. The pianistic style is discussed and examples 
of the influence of the Sonatine on some of Ravel’s later works 
are cited. 

department of music 



7 A 9 p % 

» O A* U t) 





I Modere . 23 

First Subject . 23 

Harmony IP .. 26 

Meter IP . 27 

Second Subject . 28 

Development .. . 30 

Recapitulation . 32 

II Mouv de Menuet . 34 

III Anime .. 39 

Exposition . 39 

First Subject . 39 

Transition. 42 

Second Subject . 44 

Development . 47 

Recapitulation . 51 

Coda . 51 

IV Pianistic Style . 53 










Movemen t: 










In my own work of composition I find a 
long period of conscious gestation, in general, 
necessary. During this interval, I come grad¬ 
ually to see, and with growing precision, the 
form and evolution which the subsequent work 
should have as a whole. I may thus be occu¬ 
pied for years without writing a single note 
of the work—after which the writing goes re¬ 
latively rapidly; but there is still much time 
to be spent in eliminating everything that 
might be regarded superfluous, in order to re¬ 
alize as completely as possible the longed-for 1 
final clarity. 

Maurice Ravel 

Caricature by Aline Fruhauf 








Friday, September 12, 1975, at 8:00 p.m. 

Convocation Hall, Arts Building 

SONATA NO. 3 (1936) ...J... Paul Hindemith 

Ruhig bewegt 
Sehr Lebhcft 
Mdssig schnell 
Fuge: Lebhaft 

VARIATIONS IN F MINOR (1793)........F. J. Haydn 

SON ATI NE (1905) ............ Maurice Ravel 


Mouv't de Menuet 


PRELUDE, CHORALE AND FUGUE (1884) ....Cesar Franck 

This recital is presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master 
of Music degree for Miss Nichol. 




... a. man’s Self is the sum total of all that he can call 
his, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes 
and his house, his wife and children, his ancestors and friends, 
his reputation and works ... 1 

William James 

Maurice Ravel was a small man, approximately five foot three 


inches tall, weighing only one hundred and eight pounds. His physical 
features are described in the following portrait written by his friend 
and trusted interpreter, pianist Marguerite Long: 


He was a typical Basque; small,.thin, the bone struc¬ 
ture of his face strongly marked, and ascetic. His hair was 
wavy, and having turned early to silver gave an expression of 
gentleness to his energetic features . . . His eyes were brown 
and deep set. Their expression, open and enquiring, was wel¬ 
coming, yet often alert to signal imminent danger. His mouth 
was thin, hinting at reserve, and perhaps uneasiness. . . . 

He was something of a dandy, anxious to follow fashion 
or even set it. He dressed very carefully and he had a pen¬ 
chant for nice ties, the choice of which was often the sub¬ 
ject of endless discussion.^ 

1 William James, The Principles of Psychology _, 2 vols. (New York: 
Dover Publications, 1950), I: 291. 

2 Arbie Orenstein, Ravel: Man and Musician (New York: Columbia 
Univ. Press, 1975), p. 111. 

3 Ravel’s mother was a Basque; he was born at Ciboure in the Basque 
territory of France only a short distance from the Spanish border. 

4 Marguerite Long, At the Piano With Ravel s ed. Pierre Laumonier, 
trans. Olive Senior-Ellis (London: J.M. Dent, 1973), -p. 118. 



In virtually all vignettes of Ravel, reference is made to his 
dandyism. He was known to keep a close watch on trends in fashion, as 
this remark made to a friend at the premier of his first opera L'Eeure 
espagnole indicates: "Have you not noticed, mon eher , that you and I are 
the only people wearing black dress clothes instead of the new midnight 
blue?"^ An incident which occurred in Chicago during his tour of the 
United States and Canada (January to April, 1928) further illustrates 
the importance he placed on his apparel. When he discovered that his 
evening shoes had been left in a trunk at the railway station, Ravel re¬ 
fused to go on stage to conduct the scheduled orchestral concert. The 
concert was delayed thirty minutes while the shoes were retrieved.^ 

A. Orenstein suggests that Ravel, who admired Baudelaire, pat¬ 
terned his behavior after this author’s description of the dandy "who was 
supposed to exhibit simplicity and elegance in grooming and to carry out 
a dignified quest for beauty.Interestingly enough, Ravel’s biographer 
A. Roland-Manuel found Baudelaire’s description of the painter Delacroix 
applicable to the character of Ravel. Delacroix "had in him much of the 
dandy" and "indulged with pleasure in the most material vanities of dandy¬ 
ism ... He had the same apparent coldness," said Baudelaire, "the same 
icy cloak, hiding a reticent sensibility . . . Beneath the same show of 
egoism he had the same devotion to his secret friends and to the ideas 

5 Rollo H. Myers, Ravel: Life and Works (London: G. Duckworth, 1960), 

p. 212. 

6 Ibid., p. 78-9. 

7 Orenstien, Ravel , p. 18, 


of his choice . . . One of his supreme preoccupations was I think, to 

conceal the turbulence of his heart and not to appear as a man of gen- 

ius. M We gain further insight into the "turbulent heart" of Maurice 
Ravel through the following comments made by Rollo Myers: 

It is true that there is about his music, as there was in his 
physical presence and comportment, a certain cold detachment 
and aloofness, a shrinking from any overt manifestation of 
emotion of any kind; but this extreme reserve, reflected in 
his character no less than in his art, was probably to some 
extent a mask. He said once to a friend: ’People are always 
saying I have no heart. It is not true. But I am a Basque, 
and the Basques feel things very strongly, but rarely reveal 
their feelings and then only to a very few. ’9 

Ravel was devoted to his mother. She was the predominant female influ¬ 
ence in his life and undoubtedly one of the few with whom he shared his 

Ravel’s personal tastes were set early in life. Referring to 
his song cycle Sheherazade he said, "Here again I yielded to the profound 
attraction which the East has always held for me since my childhood. 

This interest was no doubt fostered at the Great Exhibition of 1889 (in 
Paris) where the composer came in contact with Javanese gamelan orchestras 
and Annamite dancers. This fascination manifested itself in his artistic 
tastes as well as in his profession. His home, Le Belvedere in Monfort 
L’Amaury, now preserved as a museum, brings to light many of his personal 

8 Quoted in A, Roland-Manuel, Maurice Ravel , trans. Cynthia Jolly 
(London: Dobson, 1947; reprint ed.. New York: Dover, 1972), p. 132. 

9 Rollo H. Myers, Modern French Music (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1971), 
p. 103. 

10 Myers, Ravel , p. 119. 


tastes and personality traits. It is described by A. Orenstein: 

. . . one notes a Japanese garden, many Japanese prints, an 
Arabic coffee set—showing his penchant for the exotic—and 
finely wrought bibelots, mechanical birds, music boxes, and 
carved statuettes—showing his predilection for perfectly 
crafted miniatures of all sorts. . . . Ravel’s mischievous 
humor often came to the fore when guiding his friends through 
the villa, for when his guests gazed in admiration at a "rare" 
Monticelli, he would enjoy informing them that it was an imi¬ 
tation. Indeed, throughout the villa, one finds a curious 
combination of rare authenticity and flagrant pastiche side 
by side, together with an aura of make-believe enchantment, 
not unrelated to the exoticism of Sh&h£razade or the child¬ 
like humor of L 'Enfant et les sortileges .11 

Ravel was drawn to the literary works of Charles Baudelaire, 
Edgar Allan Poe, and the poet Stephane Mallarme. His principal bio¬ 
graphers report that the composers he held in great esteem included 
Mozart, Weber, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt, Chabrier, Satie, 
and Debussy. Perhaps as revealing is a list of composers he had re¬ 
servations about, those being Beethoven, Berlioz, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, 


Franck, and d'Indy. He remarked that he found the "heavy contrapuntal 

Teutonic manner" unnecessarily complicated and said that his motto was 


to be "complex, but not complicated." Among his contemporaries he 
respected Stravinsky and Schoenberg and recognized the contributions 
made by Falla, Strauss, Puccini, Bartok, and Ktfdaly.^ Ravel took an 
interest in aspiring composers, tutoring them and assisting them in the 

11 Orenstein, Ravel , p. 81. 

12 Ibid., p. 121. 

13 Ursula Vaughan Williams, R, 7. W a : A Biography of Ralph Vaughan 
Williams (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1964), p. 79. 

14 Orenstein, Ravel , p. 121. 


public performances of their work. Ralph Vaughan Williams, Lennox Berk¬ 
ley, Germaine Tailleferre, and Alexandre Tansman numbered among those 
who benefited from his knowledge and generosity. ^ 

As a musician, Ravel was renowned for his technique. In the 
following quote he describes his personal aims in composing: 

I am sometimes credited with opinions which appear very 
paradoxical concerning the falsity of art and the dangers of 
sincerity. The fact is I refuse simply and absolutely to con¬ 
found the conscience of an artist, which is one thing, with his 
sincerity , which is another. Sincerity is of no value unless 
one’s conscience helps to make it apparent. This conscience 
compels us to turn ourselves into good craftsmen. My objective, 
therefore, is technical perfection . . . 

Art, no doubt, has other effects, but the artist, in my 
opinion, should have no other aim.16 

Rollo Myers suggests that this preoccupation with technical perfection 
is inherent in the French character: 

All French art shows the same preoccupation with form and tech¬ 
nique, the same attention to polish and detail, to balance and 
clarity above all. Like the good craftsman he is, the French 
artist is proud of his metier, ... 17 

Myers makes this comment about Ravel's technical prowess: 

Ravel was one of the most consummate musical craftsmen the world 
has ever known. His technical virtuosity was prodigious; and 
his music, in whatever medium he was working, whether piano, or¬ 
chestra, operatic or instrumental, is as finely wrought as any 
of those exquisite Chinese or Japanese objets d r art which he 
admired so passionately ... 1^ 

15 Orenstein, Ravel, p. 112. 

16 Quoted in ibid., p. 118. 

17 Myers, French Music,, p. 7. 


Ibid., p. 102.. 


Ravel’s friend Leon-Paul Fargue describes him as follows: 

This man, who was profoundly intelligent, versatile, precise 
and as learned as it was possible to be and who did everything 
with a facility which was proverbial, had the character and 
qualities of an artisan—and there was nothing he liked better 
than to be compared to one. He liked doing things, and doing 
things well; everything that issued from his brain, whatever 
reservations the critics may make about his inspiration, bears 
the stamp of perfection, . . . 19 

His technique is further acclaimed by his friend and biographer A. Roland- 
Manuel, "Genius of a musical order worked in him with supreme infal¬ 
libility, secretly awaited and faithfully served by the most beautiful 
technique imaginable. 

Ravel’s musical apprenticeship was served at the Paris Con¬ 
servatoire. His career at this institution began in 1889 when at the 
age of fourteen he was accepted into the preparatory class of Eugene 
AnthiSme. Previous to this he had studied piano with Henry Ghys and 
Emile Decombes, and harmony with Charles-Rene. Looking back on Ravel’s 
first efforts at composition, Charles-Rene' made this comment in 1913: 

He was writing essays in composition for me which were of real 
interest, and already revealed aspirations towards a refined, 
lofty and subtilized art, which now forms his noble and con¬ 
stant preoccupation. There has been an essential unity in his 
artistic development; his conception of music is entirely spon¬ 
taneous, and not the result of effort, as it is with so many 

19 Quoted in Myers, Ravel, , p. 33. 

20 Roland-Manuel, Ravel 3 p. 137. 

21 Quoted in ibid., p. 18. 


Ravel advanced to the piano class of Charles Beriot in 1891. 

In the same year he began the study of harmony with Emile Pessard. He 
remained with these professors until 1895 when his failure to win the 
prizes required by the regulations of the Conservatoire resulted in his 
dismissal from both courses. Although he could have continued at the 
Conservatoire studying solfeggio or taking part in the chamber music 
classes, Ravel chose to leave. He did not return until 1898 when he en¬ 
tered the composition class of Gabriel Faure. During his absence he had 
continued to compose. While studying at the Conservatoire with Faure 
Ravel took counterpoint and orchestration privately from Andre G^dalge. 
Ravel paid tribute to both pedagogues with these words, "I am pleased 
to acknowledge that I owe to Andre' Gedalge the most valuable elements of 

my technique. As for Faure his advice as an artist gave me encouragement 

of no less value." Faure guided Ravel for the next five years. In 
1903 his academic career ended when he left the Conservatoire for the 
last time. 

Up to this point Ravel had composed the following works, group¬ 
ed here according to medium and listed in chronological order. 







Serenade grotesque 

Salabert & ARIMA, 1975. 


Menuet antique 

Enoch, 1898. 


Sites auriculaires 
(two-piano work) 

Salabert & ARIMA, 1975* 


Pavane pour une Infante 

E. Demets, 1900; Eschig, 

22 Quoted 

in Orenstein, Ravel , p. 13. 









Ballade de la Reine morte 
d 1 aimer 

Salabert & ARIMA, 1975. 


JJn Grand Sommeil noir 

Durand, 1953. 



Durand, 1907. 


Chanson du rouet 

Salabert & ARIMA, 1975. 


Si morne! 

Salabert & ARIMA, 1975. 


Epigrammes de Clement 


E. Demets, 1900; Eschig . 


Manteau de fleurs 

Hamelle, 1906. 


189 7 

Senate pour piano et 

Salabert & ARIMA & SEMUP, 
19 75. 


Ouverture de Sheherazade 

Salabert & ARIMA, 1975. 


Quatuor (String Quartet) 

G. Astruc, 1904; Durand, 

With these works Ravel established the style he maintained 
throughout his creative life. Unlike those composers whose music may be 
divided into periods of apprenticeship and maturity, Ravel, in Rollo 
Myers words, "seems to have acquired in his student days a technical mas¬ 
tery which remained constant throughout his career; his touch was no less 

sure in the Quartet of 1902 than in Tombeau de Couperin 1917 or, for that 


matter, the piano concertos of 1931." As a case in point the Rapsodie 
espagnole for orchestra written in 1907-08 has as its third movement the 
orchestral transcription of the "Habanera" taken from the two piano work 
Sites aurioulaires , composed in 1895. The orchestral transcription 

23 Myers, Ravel , p. 104. 


adheres faithfully to the original score; the few alterations that occur 
are insignificant. The fact that this material could be inserted vir¬ 
tually unaltered into a work composed twelve years after it is a testi¬ 
mony to Rollo Myers' assessment of Ravel. Ravel made this comment about 
the "Habanera": "I believe that this work with its ostinato pedal point 

and its chords with multiple appoggiaturas contains the germ of several 


elements which were to predominate in my later compositions." "Le 
Gibet" from Gaspavd de la nuit, completed in the fall of 1908, is an 
example of his masterful treatment of an inverted pedal; the opening 
measures of Vaises nobles et sentimentales of 1911 illustrate the multiple 
appoggiaturas he speaks of (Example 1). Alfredo Casella, in a discussion 

Example 1. Vaises nobles et sentimentales, meas. 1-2. 

—o - - - - *— - 0 

of Ravel's harmony, reduced this passage to this: 

Example 2. Reduction of Vaises nobles et sentimentales, meas. 1-2. 

24 Quoted in Orenstein, Ravel, p. 142. 

25 Alfredo Casella, "Ravel's Harmony", Musical Times, 67 (1926), 
p. 127. 


Ravel made further use of the Spanish idiom in his first opera 
L'Heure espagnole (1907-08), and his ballet Bolero (1928). His affinity 
for dance rhythms lasted throughout his career. He wrote in a variety of 
forms including the pavane, minuet, waltz, rigaudon, forlane, habanera, 
bolero, malaguena, and fox trot. Another characteristic observed in the 
"Habanera" is the composer’s practice of transcribing original piano works 
for orchestra. Some of the pieces which fall into this category are: 
Menuet antique 3 Pavane pour une Infante defunte "Une Barque sur 1*ocean" 
and "Alborada del gracioso" from Miroirs, Ma Mere I’Oye _, Vaises nobles et 
sentimentales 3 and Le Tombeau de Couperin^ to name a few. Ravel also 
orchestrated the piano works of other composers, notably Mussorgsky’s 
Pictures at an Exhibition _, four pieces from Schumann's Carnaval, and 
Debussy’s Danse of 1890 and his "Sarabande" from the suite Pour le Piano 

Of the five original piano works written prior to 1903, the 
Serenade grotesque and Sites auriculaires remained unpublished until 
1975. Ravel’s first published work was the Menuet antique . It was 
completed by the twenty-year-old composer in the same month as the "Ha¬ 
banera." The fact that he chose to present his ideas in the form of a 
minuet deserves comment. As a reflection on his musical character it 
shows his willingness to accept the discipline of a classical form and 
his ability to work within established tradition. This is not to say 
that Ravel was a conformist. Quite the contrary, his harmonies were 
novel and even considered revolutionary at the time he was writing. It 
is only with the benefit of hindsight that the import of Ravel’s inno- 


vations appear less potent than the revolutionary effect of Schoenberg’s 
atonal concepts and serial technique. 

The stylized dance, a purely objective and impersonal form, 
provided an excellent vehicle for Ravel’s art as his repeated use of 
it indicates. The Menuet antique is in ternary form, section A in F- 
sharp minor, section B in F-sharp major. The use of the lowered lead¬ 
ing tone in both the major and minor modes is a hallmark of Ravel’s 
style. There are numerous examples throughout his work of the melodic 
use of various gapped scales (the pentatonic for instance), and modes— 
in particular the Dorian and Phrygian modes. The Dorian mode is com¬ 
mon to old French folk songs while the Phrygian mode recalls the music 
of Spain, specifically Andalucia. The influence of Chabrier, Satie, 

and the Russian school is reflected in the combination of modality and 

2 6 

tonality found in Ravel’s melodies. There follows an example of the 
melodic use of a gapped scale and a modally inflected cadence taken 
from the Menuet antique (Examples 3 & 4). This cadence is the precursor 

Example 3. The use of a gapped scale, Menuet antique 3 meas. 51-2. 

of those we will find in the Sonatine. 

26 Orenstein, Ravel , p. 131. 


Example 4. Modally inflected cadence, Menuet antique , meas. 45-6. 

en _ 

Some of the other stylistic features which the Menuet antique 
heralds are Ravel’s fondness for the chords of the seventh and ninth 
(Example 5); his preference for the intervals of the major second. 

Example 5. Chords of the seventh and ninth, Menuet antique , meas. 13. 

perfect fourth, and perfect fifth (the principal components of the penta 
tonic scale, Example 6); the use of sequence and repetition as the pri¬ 
mary means of phrase extension, rather than motivic development; and fin 
ally his habit of combining two themes which have been introduced sepa¬ 
rately (Example 7). Here the themes of the minuet and trio are amal¬ 


Example 6. The use of: a) major seconds, Menuet antique , meas. 35-6. 
b) perfect fourths, Menuet antique , meas. 31. c) perfect fifths, 
Menuet antique , meas. 51. 

Example 7. Amalgamation of the minuet and trio themes, Menuet antique , 
meas. 72-3. 

The next composition for piano was the Pavane youv une Infante 
defunte , 1899. It was commissioned by the Princess Edmond de Polignac 
and is dedicated to her. In an article written for the Societe"Inter¬ 
nationale de Musique in February of 1912, Ravel said of the Pavane, 

I no longer see its virtues from this distance. But, alas 
its faults I can perceive only too well: the influence of 


Chabrier is much too glaring, and the structure rather poor. 

The remarkable interpretations of this inconclusive and con¬ 
ventional work have, I think, in great measure contributed 

to its success.27 

For thirty years this piece ranked as Ravel's most popular; it was re¬ 
placed by Bolero. The reference to the influence of Chabrier may be 


traced specifically to his "Idylle" from Dix Pieces pitoresques 3 1881. 
Ravel's criticism of the Pavane's structure possibly reflects his dis¬ 
satisfaction with the rather conspicuous subdivisions of the piece; it 

is in rondo form. Acknowledging these faults, we do find however, that 
the work introduces some devices Ravel adopted in his subsequent compo¬ 
sitions. These include: the frequent doubling of the melody at the oc¬ 
tave below—often doubled at the fifteenth below as well (see Example 8), 
and the use of block chords in parallel motion—first shown at a caden- 
tial point, Example 9, and again at the approach to a climax on a dom¬ 
inant-thirteenth chord (one of the composer's favorite harmonies), 

Example 10. 

Example 8. Doubling of the melody at the octave below, Pavane pour une 
Infante defunte 3 meas. 30-33. 

27 Quoted in Roland-Manuel, Ravel 3 p. 29. 

28 Orenstein, Ravel 3 p. 150. 

29 Ibid. 


Example 9. Block chords in parallel motion at a cadential point, Pavane 
your une Infante defunte _, meas. 26-7. 

irn pt'tf phi* hiil 

Example 10. Block chords in parallel motion at a climactic point, 
Pavane your une Infante defunte _, meas. 46-7. 

The Pavane and Ravel’s next piano work, Jeux d’eau (1901) 

were jointly premiered by Ricardo Vines at the April 5, 1902 concert 
✓ 30 

of the Societe Nationale de Musique. The Pavane received a warm recep- 


tion, while Jeux d'eau was generally thought to be overly complicated. 
Although its significance was not immediately apparent to the audience, 
Jeux d’eau has since been recognized as a major landmark in the liter¬ 
ature of the piano. 

30 Ibid., p. 37. 

31 Ibid. 


Ravel said, 

Jeux d'eau is at the origin of whatever pianistic innovations 
my works may be thought to contain. This piece, inspired by 
the noise of water and the musical sounds emitted by fountains, 
waterfalls and streams, is based on two themes, on the model 
of a sonata first movement, but without conforming to the 
classical plan of key relations.32 

The autographed copy of the manuscript bears this inscription "Dieu 


fluvial riant de I’eau qui le chatouille," written in the hand of 
Henri de Regnier, the author. The work is dedicated to Gabriel Faure. 

The harmonic idiom of Jeux d'eau is in keeping with Ravel T s 
previous compositions. We find chords of the major seventh and major 
ninth used extensively, frequent use of consecutive major seconds, per- * 
feet fourths, and perfect fifths, and numerous pedal points. The second 
theme is another example of Ravel’s use of the pentatonic scale (Example 
11). The distinguishing feature of this composition is its unprecedent- 

Example 11. The use of the pentatonic scale, Jeux d'eau, meas. 19. 

ed virtuosic exploitation of the upper register of the piano. The bril¬ 
liant passagework of glissandi, chromatic scale runs, and arpeggios in 

32 Quoted in Myers, Ravel, p. 156. 

33 "A river god laughing at the water which titillates him. M 


seconds placed new technical demands on the performer. The following 
passage is typical of the piano writing in this work. 

Example 12. Jeux d’eau j meas. 52-3. 



ffiJTn T 



? 1 

3 ... 

Liszt’s "Les Jeux d’eau a la villa d'Este" (1883) from the 
third year of the Annees de Relerinage may well have served as a model 
for this work. Both pieces were inspired by the sound of water, and 
use the upper register of the keyboard. There> however their similar¬ 
ities end. A much closer relationship exists between Jeux d'eau and 
Claude Debussy’s "Jardins sous la pluie" ( EstampeSj 1903), and "Reflets 
dans l’eau" (Images, 1905). Pierre Lalo, critic for the newspaper Le 
Temps (who repeatedly asserted that Ravel merely imitated Debussy), re¬ 
ferring to Debussy’s L’Ts'Le Joyeuse (1904) and "Reflets dans l’eau" cre¬ 
dited him with creating, "a new manner of writing for the keyboard, a 
special style of particular virtuosity.This remark solicited the 

34 Orenstein, Rave'll p. 32. 


following reply from the usually silent Ravel. It was published in Le 
Temps j April 9, 1907. 

I would like to call your impartial attention to the following 
point. You dwell upon a rather special type of writing for 
the piano, whose invention you ascribe to Debussy. Jeux d'eau 
appeared at the beginning of 1902, however, when there were 
only Debussy’s three pieces Pour le piano, for which, I do not 
need to tell you, I have the warmest admiration, but which, 
from a purely pianistic point of view, did not contain anything 
new. I hope you will excuse this legitimate claim.^5 

As Ravel has indicated, this was clearly a case of a younger composer 
influencing his elders. 

Another music critic more favourably disposed towards Ravel, 
M.D. Calvocoressi, encouraged him to enter a competition sponsored by 
the Weekly Critical Review . The contestants were to submit the first 

3 6 

movement of a piano sonatina, to be no longer than seventy-five bars. 

It appears that Ravel was the only participant. Whether due to lack of 
entries or perhaps the imminent financial collapse of the publication, 
the competition was cancelled. Ravel, having composed the first move¬ 
ment of his Sonatine in 1903, waited until 1905 to add the other two 
movements which complete the work. In the interim there arose a public 
scandal involving Ravel and his efforts to win the Prix de Rome. 

The Prix de Rome is a scholarship awarded annually by the 
Institut de France to a candidate selected by competition from the stu¬ 
dents of composition at the Paris Conservatoire. The winner receives a 
pension from the state for a period of four years, part of which time is 

35 Ibid. 

36 M.D. Calvocoressi, "When Ravel Composed to Order," Music and Let¬ 
ters, 22 (Jan. 1941), p. 55. 


spent at the Academie de France in Rome. There is an age limit of thirty 
and candidates are selected by a preliminary eliminative test. They are 
required to compose a cantata for orchestra, soloists, and chorus on a 
given text. 

Ravel first entered this prestigious competition in 1901. He 
received the third prize (a gold medal) for his cantata Myrvha on a text 
by Fernand Beissier. First prize was awarded to Andre Caplet, the second 
to Gabriel Dupont. Writing to his friend Lucien Garban on July 26, 1901 
Ravel said: 

. . . Almost all the judges recommended me for the prize (Mas¬ 
senet voted this way in fact all along). I have been told 
something very curious: that I possess a spout of melody . . . 
from which there flows quite effortless music. This charming 
metaphor comes from your dear master Xavier. Leroux, who, like 
Vidal, has shown himself very enthusiastic on my behalf. I 
have been assured— horresoo referens —that Lenepveu was very 
taken with my cantata, but not, mark you, quite enough to pre¬ 
fer it to that of his pupil. 

Why didn’t you get the first prize? you will ask. Because, 
believe it or not, my orchestra played me a dirty trick. Al¬ 
though my composition was one of the first to be finished, I 
happened to arrive a little late, and had scant time for my or¬ 
chestra which consequently was a trifle scamped. 

I'll have to begin again, that’s all . . . 

He did begin again, entering the competition unsuccessfully in 
1902 and 1903. He decided to make one final attempt in 1905. This was 
the last year that he could qualify to compete because of the age restric¬ 
tion. To the shock of the musical community and the general public the 

jury excluded him from the final trial. Since the preliminary round was 

37 Quoted in Roland-Manuel, Ravel , p. 30. 

38 The members of the jury for the 1905 competition were Charles 
Lenepveu, Theodore Dubois, Emile Paladilhe, Jules Massenet, Ernest Reyer, 
Xavier Leroux, Hillemacher, and Roujon. 


used to eliminate those competitors who lacked the technical proficiency 
necessary for the gruelling schedule of the final round, we must assume 
that the jurors found the composer of Jeux d’eau 3 the String Quartet 3 and 
Sheherazade technically incompetent for the task. Apparently however, 
their decision was colored somewhat by bias and prejudice,for Ravel was 
regarded as a dangerous rebel by several of the more illiberal members of 
the jury. 

His test pieces do contain minor errors and one passage with 

seven bars of parallel octaves between the outer voices—an inexcusable 


error in traditional four-part writing. It was this passage no doubt 

that prompted this remark made by Emile Paladilhe, "Monsieur Ravel may 

consider us no better that rude mechanics ( pompiers ) but he cannot with 


impunity consider us as imbeciles." 

Founded or unfounded, Ravel's elimination from the competition 
resulted in a public scandal. Prominent men from musical and literary 
circles published protests against the decision. Jean Marnold, critic, 
founder, and editor of the Mereure Musical revealed in his article "Le 
Scandale du Prix de Rome," that the successful candidates were all, coin¬ 
cidentally, pupils of Charles Lenepveu. He wondered if in future the Prix 


de Rome would be "extorted by intrigue or awarded by idiots." The ar¬ 
ticle is filled with biting sarcasm directed at the jury members and is an 

39 Orenstein, Ravel , p. 44. 

40 Quoted in Long, With Ravel , p. 101. 

41 Quoted in Norman Demuth, Ravel (London: J.M. Dent, 1947), p. 24. 


indication of the violent reaction Parisian society had to the affair. 
Angry articles appeared in the press and even those artistically opposed 
to Ravel came to his defense. Romain Rolland, a distinguished author and 
musicologist, wrote the following letter to Paul Leon, Director of Fine 
Arts, on Ravel’s behalf: 

I am absolutely disinterested in this affair. I am not a friend 
of Ravel’s; I can even say that I am not personally in sympathy 
with his subtle and refined art. But what in justice I am com¬ 
pelled to say is that Ravel is not merely a promising pupil; he 
is already one of the most distinguished of our younger school 
of composers, which cannot claim many like him . . . The compe¬ 
tition was honored by the presence of a musician of his standing, 
and even if by some unfortunate chance, which I would find it 
difficult to account for, his compositions were, or appeared to 
be, inferior to those of his fellow competitors, he ought all the 
same to have been admitted ... I admire the composers who dared 
to judge him. Who will judge them in return? Forgive me for 
interfering in a question which does not concern me, but it is 
the duty of each one of us to protest against a judgment which, 
even if strictly legal, nevertheless is an offence against real 
justice and against art.42 

No one could undo what had been done; the outcome of the affair 
was the resignation of Theodore Dubois as director of the Conservatoire. 
He was the head of the jury for the competition and therefore one of 
those responsible for the verdict. Gabriel Faure^ replaced him. Ravel 
himself never commented on the issue. 

At this time Ravel received an invitation from Alfred and Misia 
Edwards to join them and the painter Bonnard on a six-week cruise through 
Holland. He accepted. Edwards was the owner and editor of the daily 
newspaper Le Matin which had supported Ravel throughout the scandal. His 
wife Misia was the half sister of Cyprien Godebski one of Ravel’s 

42 Quoted in Myers, Ravelj p. 26. 


closest friends (the Sonatine is dedicated to Cyprien and his wife Ida) 
Aboard the Edwards’ yacht "Aimee," Ravel travelled through France and 
Flanders to Holland, ending with a journey up the Rhine as far as Frank 
furt. Here is an excerpt from a letter written July 5, 1905 to his 
pupil Maurice Delage: 

What I saw yesterday will be impressed in the corner of my eye, 
together with Antwerp harbor. After a seedy day on a very wide 
river between hopelessly flat banks devoid of character, you 
come upon a city of chimneys, of domes belching flames and red¬ 
dish or blue flares. This is Haum, a gigantic foundry in which 
24,000 laborers work day and night. As Ruhrort is too far, we 
put into port here. So much the better, or we should have missed 
this phenomenal sight. We went all the way down to the mills 
at nightfall. How can I tell you the impression these castles 
of smelting make, these incandescent cathedrals, the marvelous 
symphony of driving belts, of whistles, of tremendous hammer 
strokes that engulf you. A red sky everywhere, somber and 
flaming. . . . How musical it all is . . . and I have every 
intention of using it.^3 

It was on his return to Paris that he completed the Sonatine . 

43 Piero Weiss, Letters of Composers Through Six Centuries (Philadel 
phia: Chilton Book Co., 1967), Letter 285. 



I Modere 

The first movement is in sonata form. An analysis^ of the 
formal structure is given in Table I. Please note that the bars of the 
first and second endings are numbered consecutively, i.e., the last bar 
of the first ending is bar 28, the first bar of the second ending is 
bar 29. 

First Subject IP 

IPa, bars 1-5, may be divided into two phrases, one of three 
measures the other of two. The second is an exact repetition of the 
first, the only difference being the dynamic indication, pianissimo. 

The melody has a rather static character. After the initial drop of a 
perfect fourth it moves up stepwise no further afield than a perfect 
fifth. It is doubled at the octave below. The series of broken 
chords seem to dictate the melodic contour. Melody appears to arise 
from the harmonic material rather than vice versa. 

1 The symbols used in this analysis follow the format suggested 
by Jan LaRue in Guidelines For Style Analysis (New York: W.W. Norton, 
1970), Ch. VII. 



Table I. First Movement: Formal Structure 




First Subject 

Second Subject 


First Ending 
Second Ending 



IP a 

( 1 + 1 + 2 + 3 ) 


+ 7 

( 2 + 2 + 1 +%+%+^) 



+ 4 

( 1 + 1 + 2 ) 








Based on IP 




Based on 2P 

5 + 4 

(3+2) (2+2) 

Based on Pr 

3 + 4 

( 1 + 1 + 1 ) ( 1 + 1 + 2 ) 














At the mezzo-forte bar 5, the perfect fourth of IPa is 
inverted and the basic stepwise motion is maintained, but now with the 
melody no longer doubled by the lower voice. As before, the melodic 
material is stated and then repeated (this time with slight variation, 
bar 9). An elision of these two phrases occurs in bar 7. As a climax 
is approached, bars 9-11, the melody is progressively reduced to smaller 
units, finishing with one a half-bar in length. This unit (a segment of 
a pentatonic scale, designated K, Example 13) is reiterated at the oc¬ 
tave below (bar 11) then varied rhythmically and repeated again an oc¬ 
tave lower (bar 12). 

Example 13. Motive K, Sonatine I, meas.11. 

Ravel chose a very limited range for the first subject. It 
spans only two-and-a-half octaves, briefly extended to three at the cli¬ 
max of bar 11. At any given point no more than a fourteenth separates 
the two outer parts--for the first five, measures the distance is kept 
within the octave. The tessitura is in the middle register of the piano 
and provides a consistent tonal colour. 

The dynamic markings of the first section range from ’pianissimo 
to forte . The passage is however predominantly subdued, the major por¬ 
tion of it falling within the pianissimo to mezzo-forte spectrum. A 
single forte climax is reserved for the closing bars of IP. 


Harmony IP 

A homophonic texture is established and maintained throughout 
the exposition of the first theme. The harmonic fill of chord tones 
oscillating between the two inner voices creates a transparent and deli¬ 
cate fabric over which the theme is woven. The key of F-sharp minor is 
implied by the key signature but the constant use of the lowered leading 
tone and chromatic inflection substantiate its modal character. Simple 
triads in parallel motion provide the backdrop for the melodic activity 
of IPa. Here the octaves between the outer parts and the open fifths in 
the lower voices enhance the archaic quality suggested by the modal 

form ninths and thirteenths with the upper voices, e.g. bars 6-7. As the 

dynamic level increases so does the complexity and intensity of the chord¬ 

al structures. Ravel uses subtle dissonance to provide the harmonic stress 
which reinforces the dynamic outline of his phrases. The first example 
of this harmonic underpinning occurs at bar 3 where the crescendo and the 
use of the seventh coincide (Example 14) , the second at the end of bar 

Example 14. Sonatine I, meas. 3. 


5 into 6 where mezzo-forte is indicated in the score and the first ninth 
appears (Example 15); the final one is the forte chord at the climax bar 11 

Example 15. Sonatine I, meas. 5-6. 

which contains the dissonance of a thirteenth (Example 16). The thir- 
Example 16. Sonatine I, meas. 11. 

teenth has occurred previously in bars 7 and 9, and in this example the 
dissonance used becomes secondary to the effect created by the sudden 
change of texture. 

Meter IP 

This first section in 2/4 meter.has the basic rhythmic pulse 
of an eighth-note. The thirty-second-notes are the quiet undercurrent 
that give a subtle forward drive to the melody. The melody is accorded 
different rhythmic placement when it is repeated (bars 3-5). Where ori¬ 
ginally it began in the first half of the bar, on repetition it is 


shifted to the last half. This leads one to think that the nebulous 
quality of the rhythmic stress is a contributing factor to the overall 
veiled character of the opening subject. The tempo remains consistent 
throughout IP, the one vallentando , bar 12, serves the dual purpose of 
closing off IP and ushering in 2P. 

Second Subject 2P 

Phrase 2Pa (bars 13-19), is made up of two components: 2Pax 
(Example 17), and 2Pay (Example 18). 2Pax is repeated, bar 14, as is 

Example 17. Motive 2Pax, Sonatine I, meas. 13. 

» Tempo 

Example 18. Motive 2Pay, Sonatine I, meas. 15-16. 

2Pay in bars 17-18. Here 2Pay is extended by a cadence (bar 19); the 
r'Ltavd indicated augments the articulative effect of the cadence. Bars 
20 through 23 develop according to the same plan, only on a smaller 
scale. Motive 2Pb (Example 19) is repeated and then extended cadentially 


in the vatlentCLYido bar (bar 23). (Note the melodic and rhythmic simi¬ 
larities between motive 2Pb and motive K.) 

Example 19. Motive 2Pb, Sonatine I, meas. 20. 

The second subject contrasts with the first in several ways. 

The melody functions independently—nowhere is it doubled by another 
voice. Where section IP began with longer phrases which were subsequent¬ 
ly fragmented, the reverse holds true for 2P; small fragments are strung 
together and then extended. In section IP the phrase structure creates 
an acceleration of activity, in 2P the feeling of a cessation. The most 
obvious difference, which is visual as well as aural, is the change of 
texture. The three lower voices begin by maintaining the block-chord 
accompaniment established in IP, but the absence of the melodic doubling 
and the thirty-second-notes obscures any similarities. As the melody un¬ 
folds the alto part exhibits new rhythmic and melodic independence. The 
open fifths in the lower voices are perhaps the most congruous feature 
of the two sections. 

The a Tempo (bar 23) marks the beginning of a three-bar tran¬ 
sition based on the IPax motive illustrated in Example 20. This falling 
motive may conveniently be described as a musical "sigh." It leads into 
the repetition of the exposition, the first three bars of which are set 


Example 20. Motive IPax, Sonatine I, meas. 1. 

Mode re ia “ x " 

an octave lower with the thirty-second-note accompaniment omitted. The 
repetition of the entire exposition is reminiscent of eighteenth-century 
common practice and it confirms the composer's classical orientation to 
structure in this work. 

After the restatement (second ending), the transition passage 
continues for five-and-a-half bars; Thematically it makes use of the 
"sigh" motive and material derived from the rhythm of the first subject. 
It is accompanied by a syncopated pedal in the inner voices (bars 31-34) 


The development begins (bar 34) with allusions to the first 
subject. The subsequent four bars, 37-40-, are a melodic quote of bars 
6-9 transposed to the tonal area of B. The intensity of the harmony 
and the density of the texture are of a lesser degree as compared with 
the exposition. Here, for example, seventh- and ninth-chords are used 
instead of what were ninth- and thirteenth-chords, and one lower voice 
replaces the original three. Nevertheless, this passage has a more 

brilliant quality, owing to the high registration and the dynamic level 
of forte. It concludes with the K motive which precipitates down the key- 


board (bars 41-42), resolving onto the beginning of the 2Pa theme. 

At this point (a Tempo) the second theme is developed over 
a pedal point. The pedal is a broken ^ chord. As with the develop¬ 
ment of IPa only a portion of the second theme is stated, bars 43-47. 
Momentum builds steadily from bar 48 through to the movement’s ver¬ 
tex, bar 55. Verbally the composer has indicated a crescendo and 
accelerando (bars 46-52); compositionally the impetus arises from 
the abrupt change to smaller phrase units. The first phrase of this 
section is three bars long (43-45), the second two; the balance through 
to the anime is based on a melodic unit a half-bar in length (Example 
21). Bars 48-51 are a further example of the use of repetition in phrase 

Example 21. Sonatine meas. 48. 

construction. The half-bar unit is repeated then shifted up a perfect 
fourth and repeated. Bars 50-51 repeat the two previous measures with 
slightly different rhythmic figuration. From the anime to the I°Tempo 
the upper voice stagnates melodically; monotony is avoided by rhythmic 
variety. The rhythmic pattern used is taken from the first bar of IPb 
(Example 22). The figure is modified, bar 55, and then slowed down, 
bars 57-58, to lead into the recapitulation. The bass in this passage 
is fairly static. There is an E pedal, bars 52-54, and then two one- 
measure phrases, bar 55 and bar 57, each immediately repeated. The 


Example 22. Sonatine I, meas. 6. 

notation appears to contradict the excited animi and passione instruc¬ 
tions. However., the propelling force of the ascending chromatic line 
F#.GG# in the inner voices overrides the effect of the inert elements. 
The fact that these elements remain constant intensifies the effect of 
the changing one by focusing our attention on it. The repetitive nature 
of the passage engenders an insistent quality which serves to heighten 
the excitement of the build-up to the fortissimo 3 bar 55. The rallen- 
tandO; bars 57-58, reinforces the aforementioned deceleration of the 
rhythmic motive. 


The recapitulation beginning at bar 59 is an exact repetition 
of the exposition with the exception of one-and-a-half bars, 69-70, which 
are transposed to lead to the orthodox reappearance of the second subject 
in the tonic. The key signature indicates that the second subject returns 
in the tonic major. 

This passage (bars 71-87) reveals the conflict of Ravel’s 
"modernism" and his "classical" roots. For although and F-sharp major key 
signature presides over the remaining measures, the composer has effect¬ 
ively obscured this tonality through the use of parallel chord motion, 
modal inflection, and the absence of the tonic chord. It is not until 
bar 81, ten bars after the signature first appears, that the tonic chord 


is heard. Ravel has managed very cleverly to cloak his "modernism" in 
the mantle of "classicism," fulfilling the requirements of what appear 
to be opposite viewpoints. The movement tapers to a close, cadencing 
on a subdued chord of the major ninth. 

II Mouv't de Menuet 

The second movement is in the style and meter of a minuet; 

there is no trio. Throughout the movement Ravel moves with complete 
freedom through several key areas: from D-flat major into F-sharp 
minor, bar 39 (with a leaning towards B major); back to D-flat, bar 53; 
then into C-sharp minor at bar 65; returning to D-flat, bar 79, for 
the coda. 

The first theme is twelve bars long, with a substructure of 

3+4+5. The free flowing nature of the melody tends to obscure the phrase 
structure, rendering these subdivisions rather arbitrary. There also 
appears to be a conscious effort by the composer to obscure the natural 
stress pattern of the meter. From the onset syncopation is used. Ex¬ 

amples are the rhythm of the first and second bars 

the ties at the end of bars 5, 6, 8, and 9, and the marked accentuation 
of the weaker second and third beats, bars 2, 4, 5, 7, and 11. The rhythm 
contributes greatly to the subtlety and elegance of this movement because 
of its elusive character. 

The opening melodic leap of a perfect fifth recalls the fall¬ 

ing fourth of the first movement. The staccato articulation of the accom¬ 
paniment helps to delineate the melody as the part-writing is very crowded 
The compact triad accompaniment disappears after the first three measures 
when the left hand part moves into the bass clef. Where the writing is 
compact in the first phrase it is more open in the second and third. The 
comparative sparseness of the now lower-registered accompaniment and the 



frequent octave doubling of the melody elicit this change in the musical 
fabric. The lower voices combine to form perfect fifths and major and 
minor sevenths (bars 6-11). The hollowness associated with the former 
and the size of the latter add to the more open texture. This section 
closes with a modal cadence in F, whereupon it is repeated. 

Bars 13 to 22 are a development of the first theme over an F 
pedal. One can easily see the melodic and rhythmic similarities of bars 
13-16 and bars 1-4. Variety is achieved through embellishment, and a 
shift of tonal centres from D-flat to F. The ensuing three phrases (bars 
17-18, 19-20, and 21-22) do not bear such a close resemblance to their 
source. Their inspiration seems to stem from the rhythmic pattern of 
bar 10. The next four bars, 23-26, suggest a return of the opening 
theme but in fact serve as a prelude to a new rhythmic and melodic mo¬ 
tive introduced in the tenor (Example 23). This three-bar motive dom- 

Example 23. Sonatine II, meas. 27-29. 

inates the next twelve measures. It arises quietly from a low register, 
beginning the gradual ascent to its climax, bar 35. The climb is strat¬ 
ified. Each repetition of the motive is one or two octaves above its 
predecessor. The dynamics are coupled with the registration so that as 
the figure ascends the dynamic level increases. Bars 30-32 are exactly 


bars 27-29 an octave higher; the third repetition however, is harmonically 

reinforced. There is octave doubling of the melody and chordal support 9 

which underscore the dynamic indications. This last statement, bar 33, 

repeats only the first two bars of the motive; it is extended by a four- 

bar cadential phrase (bars 35-38). This four-bar phrase is rather static, 


based entirely on a vi chord in D-flat. The right hand throughout the 

phrase retains its spacing established bar 35, while the left hand, over 
a Blp pedal, arpeggiates an F-minor chord up and down the keyboard. Rhy¬ 
thmic interest is sustained by the hemiolic treatment of the upper voice 
which is reminiscent of archaic cadential practice. This passage (bars 
33-38) begins with a I - vi progression in D-flat which generates the 
expectation of a ii chord or one of similar function to complete the 
traditional chord sequence. Instead however, the harmony stagnates, the 
tempo slackens, the dynamics decrease, and our expectation dissipates in 
the haze of harmonics the combination of these factors create. 

At this point (bar 39), the tempo, key signature, and melodic 
material change. These alterations are suggestive of the contrast pro¬ 
vided by the trio in the classical minuet-trio form. The charm of this 
section lies in its reference to the first five notes of the first move¬ 
ment (altered at one point, Example 24). The upper voice of each staff 

Example 24. Sonatine II, meas. 39-43. 


carries it. The arpeggiated version on the lower staff is augmented 
rhythmically and the composer has indicated that it be highlighted. 

At bar 45 the augmentation ceases and the lower voice is relegated 
to providing the harmonic backdrop for a rhythmic variant of the first- 
movement theme in the soprano. This two-bar phrase, 45-46, is re¬ 
peated bars 47-48. The tentative return to the original tempo fore¬ 
shadows the re-entry of the original minuet subject, bar 53. The 
compositional technique used in the four-bar approach to the return of 
the first theme, 49-52, resembles bars 52-54 of the development of the 
first movement. Both examples feature an inner ascending chromatic line 
surrounded by a temporary ostinato in the other parts. Here, the ostin- 
ato is comprised of the falling fourth motive (derived from the first 
movement) in the soprano, and a three-note accompaniment which originated 
bar 45. Example 25 illustrates the kinship of this accompaniment figure 
with the pentatonic motive K of the first movement. This figure lasts for 

Example 25. a) Motive K, Sonatine I, meas. 11. b) Accompaniment figure, 
Sonatine II, meas. 45. 

three bars into the return. From bar 53 it is spelled in the key of D- 

A recapitulation, bars 53-78, paraphrases bars 1-22 of the 
exposition. The differences are few. The repetition of the first theme 
is altered to lead to a cadence in D-flat (bars 57-64). This segment 


lacks the dissonance of the major ninth present in its counterpart. We 

move enharmonically into C-sharp at the repetition of the development of 

the first theme (bars 65-78), which is shortened by the absence of the 

suggestion of the first theme. This section, permeated by a tonic pedal 


(C// enharmonic of Dip), slowly dissolves onto a //IV5 / V-I pedal (German 


sixth over a dominant-tonic pedal) chord. The motive of bars 27-28 pro¬ 
vides the material for a brief but noble coda in D-flat. The coda pro¬ 
vides a unique contrast to the consistently diaphanous character of the 
previous measures. 

Ill Anime 

The third and final movement, in the key of F-sharp minor, is 
in sonata form. Table II gives a bar-by-bar breakdown of its formal 


The movement begins with a flurry of sixteenth-notes which lay 
the foundation for its toccatalike character. The three-bar introduction 
consists of the reiteration of a one-bar unit, made up of a broken second- 
inversion tonic chord with added raised sixth. The stressed C# functions 
as a pedal point. At this stage the harmonic designation of this chord 
is rather arbitrary. Both of these examples 

j ^ p - 

offer viable solutions because as yet, a harmonic frame of reference has 

not been established. In all likelihood the resultant harmonic ambiguity 
was the intention of the composer. 

First Subject 

The undulating motion of the sixteenth-notes provides the pro¬ 
pelling force for the principal subject. This subject (bars 3-9) is 
like a series of exclamations seemingly thrust out of the persistent 
accompaniment. The melody expands from the initial interval of a rising 
perfect fourth to a perfect fifth and major sixth before returning to 
its starting point via the same route. Perhaps its most distinguishing 



Table II. Third Movement: Formal Structure 










First Subject 











First Subject 




T 2 







Second Subject 



































. 5 







+ 7 + 







































feature is the alternation of two snappy rhythmic combinations, 
and The sporadic nature of these terse melodic fragments 

instill vitality into the theme. Through bars 8 and 9 the theme makes 
two consecutive upward leaps of a perfect fifth which culminate in a ma¬ 
jor-seventh chord, bar 10. The descent of this chord over bars 10 and 11 
comprises the closing motive, designated K (Example 26). This section is 

Example 26. Motive K, Sonatine III, meas. 10-11. 

cast in the Dorian mode built on F#. (Note the consistent use of D# and 

E ty) 

In contrast to the first two homophonic movements the last is 
contrapuntal. The opening section (1-11) establishes this linear style. 
The style of writing partially accounts for the thin, stark texture, which 
the angular quality of the melodic line augments. 

The opening section is written in the middle register of the 
instrument, within a narrow range. The accompaniment figure spans only 
a major ninth. The melody for the first four measures remains within 
the octave. The melodic range is extended to a major twelfth (bar 8) 
and finally a major sixteenth (bar 10). This passage is notable because 
of the proximity of the voices. The parts are very closely knit. The 
melody weaves its way through the accompaniment sometimes above it, some¬ 
times below it, always in similar motion to it. (This aspect of the 


writing is discussed further in reference to Ravel's pianistic style.) 

The dynamics begin and remain at a forte until bar 9 where the addition 
of an inner voice with a sixteenth-note trill figure thickens the tex¬ 
ture for the indicated crescendo leading to the fortissimo , bar 11. 


At bar 12, Agite , there is an abrupt change in texture which 
lasts through to bar 18. There are three distinct voice parts written 
above an F# pedal. In the alto, a triplet eighth-note accompaniment 
replaces the previous sixteenth-note figure. Up until this point (bar 
12) virtually the lowest note has been C//^. From bar 12 on, the lowest 
two parts are written in a lower register (now scored in the bass clef 
rather than the treble). This alters the tessitura as well as widening 
the distance between the voice parts considerably. 

The section is made up of three phrases each two bars long. 

Bars 14-15 repeat bars 12-13. The sequential repetition of bar 17 a 
major third above bar 16 interrupts what appears to be the third 
sounding of the phrase. In contrast to the beginning of the movement 
the melody moves evenly in quarter- and eighth-notes, first outlining 
a major third then filling in the same by stepwise motion (bars 12-13; 
14-15). The rise and fall of the dynamics within each phrase is sug¬ 
gestive of the wavelike motion created by the accompaniment in the 
first section. Through bars 12-17 the soprano is supported by a melodic, 
chromatic line in the tenor. This line is a direct pitch manifestation 
of the rise and fall of the dynamics. The alto line mimes the movement 


of the tenor part, ascending and descending with it in broken major 
thirds. The harsh though fleeting dissonances of a minor ninth (bars 12, 
14,16, Example 27a), and diminished octave (bars 13, 15, Example 27b) 
impart a tenuous quality to this passage. The passage ends on a major- 
ninth chord in bar 18 which heralds the return of the first subject. 

Example 27. a) Minor ninth, Sonatine III, meas. 12. b) Diminished 
octave, Sonatine III, meas. 13. 

Within the overall formal scheme of the movement these six bars func¬ 
tion as a transition. 

The next segment, bars 18-25, is bars 4-11 transposed up a 
perfect fourth. It deviates slightly from the original because of the 
introduction of a new theme in the bass, designated 2P (Example 28). 

Example 28. Theme 2P, Sonatine III, meas. 18-19. 

This creates variety in the accompaniment ; the sixteenth-notes are 
retained, but here they alternate between the members of a B-minor 


chord. The K motive appears bars 24-25 and, as before, precedes the 
transition. This transition is extended from the original six bars to 
eleven. The five-bar extension is caused by the unprecedented sequential 
repetition of bars 30-31, and a three-bar suffix. This suffix, bars 34- 
36, has a dual function. It forms the coda for the previous measures 
and the introduction to those following. It may be described as a writ¬ 
ten-out fermata for there is a momentary cessation of melodic and har¬ 
monic activity. Its sixteenth-note figuration foreshadows the obbligato 
of the second subject. 

Second Subject 

The second subject IS, bars 37-42, is the first subject of the 
first movement in a different guise; see Example 29. The 5/4 meter, al¬ 
tered note values, and fresh harmonization create the new mien. The 

Example 29. a) Sonatine I, meas. 1-3. b) Sonatine III, meas. 37. 



style of writing is homophonic in contrast to the opening theme of 
this movement. IS consists of a one-bar phrase repeated twice, bars 37- 
39. The melody in the last half of bar 39 is altered to lead chroma¬ 
tically into the next segment. The rhythmic dislocation of the last two 
beats of this bar are completely smoothed by the ritard which forms a 
graceful link to the Plus lent . 

The Plus lent 9 bars 40-42, is cast from the same mold as bars 
37-39, lacking only the sixteenth-note trill figure. It is written a 
perfect fourth lower. The addition of the fifth to the bass makes for 
a richer sonority. At the a Tempo 3 bar 43, a subordinate theme 2S is 
introduced (Example 30). The falling fourth of IS is its essence. The 

Example 30. Theme 2S, Sonatine III, meas. 43-44. 

a Tempo 

fluctuant accompaniment resembles that of IP in appearance; with regard 
to effect however, the two are disparate. Here, the billowing motion of 
the sixteenth-notes creates an ethereal character, as well as providing 
the harmonic backdrop for the melody. Bars 43-46 consist of two, 
two-bar phrases, the second an exact repetition of the first. The three 

chords illustrated here. S T^ - * —£ *. ip supply the harmony for this 

segment. Within each phrase there is a shift of meter from 5/4 to C. 


The rhythmic ambiguity arising from the alternating meter enhances the 
ethereal quality of the section. The subdued dynamic level of p'Lan'iss'imo 
also adds to this effect. 

The ensuing seven bars form the approach to the apex of the ex¬ 
position. There is a gradual build-up of momentum resulting from a com¬ 
bination of several factors. Over a C-sharp minor triad a falling two-note 
motive forms a duple cross rhythm to the triple meter. This motive begins 
on three different pitches, C#, E, and G//. The unequal reiteration of 
these motives vis-a-vis 3+2+5, adds a horizontal dimension to the rhyth¬ 
mic structure. The change of harmony which occurs in bar 51 is overshadowed 
somewhat by the first appearance of the final melodic unit in bar 50. The 
following chart delineates these factors. The phrase finishes with a 

A-l 46 49 50 51 52 53 

flourish as the accompaniment sweeps up the keyboard in sixteenth-note 

sextuplets (bar 57). 


The climax is marked by the triumphant return of the IS theme 
in bar -54- It is accompanied by block four-note common chords in a 
succession of descending whole tones. This theme cascades down the key¬ 
board coming to rest on the falling-fourth motive in bar 56. The repeti¬ 
tion of this one-bar motive in combination with the triplet eighth-note 
.figure of the bridge passage and the block chords (now minus the third) 
of the previous bars brings the exposition to a close in bar 59. 


The development begins as the exposition ended, with four re¬ 
petitions of a one-bar motive. This motive, 2Px\ is akin to both the 
falling-fourth figure and the first bar of the theme introduced in the 
bass in bar 18; see Example 31. It is registered in three different 

Example 31. a) Falling-fourth motive, Sonatine JII, meas. 56. b) Motive 

2Px, Sonatine III, meas. 18. c) Motive 2Px , Sona.tine III, meas. 60. 

octaves, A^, , and A^, and furnishes the backdrop for the next thirty- 

five bars of the development. For the first part of this section it is 
accompanied by sixteenth-notes, for the latter by triplet eighths. 

The texture and character of the development set it apart from 
the exposition. The first subject is woven through a more delicate 


fabric. It has a thin, filmy texture which results from the tessitura 
and the repetitive nature of the accompaniment. The overtones perpet¬ 
uated by the continuous repetition of motive 2Px"^ evoke its hazy atmos¬ 

After a statement of the main subject, bars 64-68, there is a 

sudden outburst of sound (bar 71) where an arpeggiated diminished-seventh 

chord ascends the keyboard to the dynamic and pitch pinnacle of the devel¬ 

opment, bar 72. The climax is short-lived. A two-bar descending phrase, 
bars 72-73, repeated at the octave below (bars 74-75), returns us to the 
point of departure. The climax is framed by two, two-bar statements of 
the accompaniment motive, bars 69-70, and 76-77. Beginning at bar 78 
triplet eighth-notes accompany motive 2Px^ which alternates between oc¬ 
taves A^ and A^. The first subject enters below it (bar 82). The rhythm 
of the subject is altered by the extension of its longer note values. 

The repetition of the accompaniment figure (bars 91-94) brings the first 
segment of the development to a close. 

The section takes place in the tonal areas of A and B. Be¬ 
ginning in an A-major (Mixolydian seventh) context, the aforementioned 
diminished-seventh chord vii° 7 /ii (bar 71) pivots us into the area of B. 
The strong dissonance of a minor second, bar 72, is given tonal signifi- 
■cance in bar 74 where it is revealed as part of the "false-relation 
chord The following illustration gives the traditional voicing for 

this chord. 

Here, the normal placement of 


the false relation is reversed (A# above a\^) . This chord provides the 
harmony for the next twenty-three bars, 72-94, with the exception of 
bar 73, repeated bar 75, where a V^/vi chord in B minor is briefly in¬ 
terjected. Ravel's fascination with this chord is brought to light by 
the fact that he chose it alone to harmonize one-third of the develop¬ 
ment. Throughout this phase of the development there is very little 
motivic, harmonic, or rhythmic variety. 

In the next segment, bars 95-126, melodic perfect fifths 
replace what were previously melodic perfect fourths; see Example 32. 

Example 32. A) Melodic use of the perfect fourth, 1) Sonatine III, 

meas. 37. 2) Sonatine III, meas. 60. B) Melodic use of the perfect 

fifth, 1) Sonatine III, meas. 95. 2) Sonatine III, meas. 106. 

B) 1) 

V P * "fc assri - toapfeasa esa j 


-4« if.—i 

2 ) 

2 ) 

B=q 5=^ 

_^T--. I*. '—ZZU - 

It begins with a combination of the second subject and theme 2P. Theme 
2P is altered slightly to fit into the 5/4 meter. Two one-bar units of 
2/4 meter punctuate the phrases of this segment. The first phrase (bar 
95-97) is made up of two identical 5/4 bars plus the 2/4 bar which mel- 
odically reinforces the falling fifth of the second subject. The second 
phrase duplicates the first a major second lower with the repeated bar 


omitted. At bar 100 there is a return to the original 3/4 meter. From 
this point on, melodic emphasis is given to the lower voice; the upper 
voice is relegated the accompaniment. With scalelike motion the melody 
descends an octave, bars 100-102, coming to rest on the 2Px motive, bar 
103. Over a G pedal the motive is heard twice, now accompanied by trip¬ 
let eighth-notes instead of sixteenths. This shift to the triplet eighth- 
note accompaniment in combination with the diminishing dynamics and tempo 
creates a temporary lull. Upon reflection it appears that the triplet 
eighth-notes are used consistently to signify a subtle and brief change 
of mood. Ravel exhibits an ambivalent attitude towards the use of trip¬ 
let eighths and sixteenths throughout the development. The figure quiet¬ 
ly dissolves onto a major-ninth chord in bar 106 which launches the return 
of the first subject. The appearance of the first subject at this point 
may suggest to the listener that the recapitulation has begun. In fact » 
however,it does not commence until bar 127 where the subject enters un¬ 
obtrusively in the tonic-major key. 

Bar 106 marks the first time both the first theme and accom¬ 
paniment are written in the bass clef. Although the theme has appear¬ 
ed in this register previously (bars 82-90) the accompaniment motive 
has not been below (save the preceding bars 103-105, which bring 
us to this registration). The next twenty-one bars of development 
(106-126) contain three similar phrases each seven bars long. The 
phrases are patterned after bars 64-70. The closing two bars of each 
phrase remain thematically consistent with the model though their scor¬ 
ing varies from it. Motive 2Px, accompanied by triplet eighths and 


supported by the lower voices, spans two octaves, compared with one in 
the original. By further comparison the approach to this motive is de¬ 
layed by a quarter-note. In fact the similarities of the passages far 
outweigh these minimal differences. 

The second phrase, 113-119, repeats the first. The upper 
voice however is an octave higher with its melodic texture slightly 
thickened. The third phrase is a major sixth higher than the first. 

The accompaniment oscillates between a note of motive 2Px and only one 
other chord-tone. Bars 125-126 vary from their counterparts in the 
previous phrases in that the melody outlines a perfect fourth instead 
of a perfect fifth. 


As previously stated the recapitulation begins in bar 127. It 
follows the same basic pattern as the exposition, with only a few minor 
alterations. After the statement of the first subject, 127-130, motive K 
is replaced by a four-bar segment, 131-134, consisting mainly of arpeg- 
giated chords. The transition passage of the exposition is replaced- by 
five bars of motive 2Px which lead into the second subject (bar 140). 

The next twenty-two bars (140-161) duplicate bars 37-59 of the exposition, 
the only difference being their respective tonal areas. 


The movement ends with an energetic coda which begins in bar 162. 
It grows out of the falling perfect-fourth motive of the previous bar. 

Excitement mounts as each successive repetition of this figure moves 
up the keyboard. The first two three-bar phrases (162-164; 165-167) 
each span an octave, the second phrase an octave higher than the first. 
In each phrase the accented notes of the motive outline a diminished 
triad with an F// root. The inner turmoil created by the placement of 
this duple figure in a 3/4 framework helps to propel the passage for¬ 
ward. The climax, reached in bar 167, is maintained by the emphatic 
repetitions of the falling-fourth motive (bars 168-170). The move¬ 
ment ends on the arpeggiated false-relation chord. 

The Sonatine is a cyclic work. As pointed out in the analy¬ 
sis, the principal theme of the first movement is heard in both the 
second and third movements. In each case, it is transformed to blend 
with its surroundings. The use of this theme throughout the work 
helps to integrate the total structure. 

IV Pianistic Style 

Characteristic of Maurice Ravel's pianistic style is his ten¬ 
dency to score all voices close together. Both hands are frequently 


written in the same clef within a limited range. This results in the 
crossing and overlapping of the parts, which in turn necessitates the 
crossing and overlapping of the pianist’s hands. It is assuredly cal¬ 
culated to create a particular result, for Ravel was a competent pianist, 
well aware of the effect this positioning would have on the performer's 
touch and tone. To illustrate, let us examine the opening measures of 
the Sonatine (Example 33). Here all four parts are written within an 
octave and the pianist's hands must overlap. The scoring reinforces 
the piano dynamic: the melody is played by the weaker outside fingers 
of each hand, while the constant interplay between the inner voices, 
resulting in the interlocking of the hands, tends to inhibit the pro¬ 
duction of a large sound. In comparison, at measure 34 (Example 34), 

Example 33. Sonatine J, meas. 1-2. 

2 Of the 172 bars of the third movement of the Sonatine 133 are 
written with both hands in either the treble or bass clef. 



where the same melodic material is used but a mezzo-forte is indicated, 
Ravel has altered the scoring to remove the interplay between the hands. 
This gives the performer added mobility which facilitates the production 
of more sound. Ravel's fastidious nature is manifest in his careful man¬ 
ipulation of these phrases. 

Example 34. Sonatine II, meas. 34.35. 

In the Sonatine the pianist is required to produce a variety 
of tonal colours, ranging from the delicacy of the opening to the bril¬ 
liance of the final coda. Very often a single phrase will demand the 
simultaneous use of two divergent touches. In Example 34, the melody 
must be voiced by the outside fingers of the right hand while a very 
delicate touch is needed for the accompaniment figure. These remarks 
also apply to the following example. 

Example 35. Sonatine III, meas. 37. 


The pedal is used extensively throughout the work. There are 
several examples of open ties used to indicate laisser vibrer ("let vi¬ 
brate") , Example 36.. 

Example 36. Sonatine II, meas. 34-35. 

The Sonatine makes no great physical demands of the performer. 
The writing is generally very smooth—any shifts up or down the keyboard 
are done gradually, large leaps are uncommon, and rarely does the pian¬ 
ist have to extend his hand outside the octave. The compact style of 
writing (over half the composition is scored with the hands simultaneous¬ 
ly in one clef) largely accounts for these factors. The lower register 
of the piano is used very sparingly—essentially to reinforce climactic 

In the Harvard Dictionary of Music the sonatina is defined as, 

"a diminutive sonata, with fewer and shorter movements than the normal 


type and also usually simpler, designed for instruction." Ravel’s 
Sonatine fulfills the requirements of this definition. Its three con¬ 
trasting movements are limited in scope and present no major technical 

3 Willi Apel, "Sonatina," Harvard Dictionary of Music , 2nd ed., ed. 
Willi Apel (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1969), p. 794. 


problems. The subtlety, refinement, and control of touch this work 
demands, however, distinguish it from the bulk of instructional pieces 
written in this form. 

Similarities exist between the Sonatine and several of Ravel’s 
subsequent compositions. The following examples are taken from "Noc- 
tuelles,” the first of a set of five piano pieces collectively titled 
Mivoivs (1905). The figuration of the passage given in Example 37 stems 
directly from the Sonatine . In Example 38, the repeated use of a descend¬ 
ing fourth recalls the first movement of the Sonatine . The first bar of 

Example 37. ’’Noctuelles," meas . 23. 

Example 38. a) "Noctuelles," meas. 47-9. b) Sonatine I, meas. 24-5. 

theme 2P of the third movement of the Sonatine also appears in "Noc¬ 
tuelles" (Example 39). Both pieces end on an arpeggiated tonic chord 
which contains both the lowered and raised third (Example 40). 


Example 39. a) Theme 2P, Sonatine III, meas. 18. b) "Noctuelles," 
meas. 55. 


The "Menuet" from Le Tombeau de Couperin (1914-17; Ravel's last 
solo work for piano) is in certain respects congruent with the second 
movement of the Sonatine . They begin in the same register and have the 
same left-hand articulation (Example 41). Although they differ structur¬ 
ally (the "Menuet" from Le Tombeau has a trio), their overall format, 

Example 41. a) Sonatine II, meas. 1-2. 

a) Mouv* do MomiPt _ t ‘ b) 


\ p 

1 A f . 



i * j 


■ -- 1 - 1 - * —— 

b) "Menuet," meas. 1-2. 

texture, phrase structure, and modal harmony are similar. 


A comparison of a passage from the "Toccata" from Le Tombeau 
and a section of the last movement of the Sonatine reveals a similar use 
of the minor-ninth chord and unbalanced phrases (Example 42). 

Example 42. a) Sonatine III, meas. 95-99. b) "Toccata," meas. 57-62. 

The Sonatine is, for the pianist, an excellent introduction to 
the music of Ravel. In the total context of Ravel’s contribution to the 
piano repertoire it ranks among his earliest and least difficult composi¬ 
tions. In the total context of the sonatina genre, it stands as one of 
the most refined and eloquent of its kind. 



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Date Due 

r\VC i ^ '77 

APR 2 5 78 

AUG 2 5 igg 


FEB 1 9 ' 


FEB 0 8