Recorded on 11/30/2011, uploaded on 04/16/2012
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
As the Jazz Age swept America and Europe during the Roaring 20s, many composers turned to this style of music born of African-American spirituals as a new means of expression, blending it with the elements of the Classical tradition and new experimental techniques alike. Of course the name George Gershwin is synonymous with the classical-jazz fusion, but in post-war France, America’s jazz influenced Paris’s young avant-garde composers, such as Maurice Ravel. Ravel was intrigued by the melodies and rhythms of jazz and when he visited America during the latter part of the decade, he soaked in the music he heard in Harlem and New Orleans. His interest and use of jazz in his own compositions spanned several works during this time, reaching its pinnacle in his two concerti for piano composed during 1929-31. Just prior to that pair of works and his trip to America, he composed another important jazz-influenced composition—the Sonata for violin and piano.
The Sonata’s first movement is thinly textured and contrasts three different melodic ideas. Ravel himself thought the violin and piano two instruments ill-suited for each other, and this is to some extent played out in the contrasting melodic ideas of the movement. Much of the movement is serene, even ethereal at times, and builds to a solitary climax before slowly evaporating away. Entitled “Blues,” the middle movement’s composition actually predates Ravel’s trip to America and his exposure to the music of Harlem and New Orleans. Alongside its noticeable jazz idioms, Ravel makes use in this movement of 20th century techniques such as bitonality. Lastly, the “Perpetuum mobile” finale incorporates themes from the preceding two movements. Joseph DuBose
Sonata for Violin and Piano Maurice Ravel
As one of Ravel’s last compositions, the Sonata for Violin and Piano is a unique work, one that brings together many influences, from Impressionism to Neoclassicism to Jazz.
The 1st movement is elegant and harmonically sumptuous, flowing almost non-stop from beginning to end. There are little rhythmic motives that interject throughout; these motives reappear again later in the work. The 2nd movement, has both the violin and piano imitating the strum of a guitar at times, with the violin melody sounding like a jazz saxophonist. The finale is a perpetuum mobile, full of violinist hurdles. The movement revisits some of the material from the earlier movements, reworking it into the context of a relentless virtuosic showpiece to end the sonata.
In this sonata, the role of the two instruments is interesting, as Ravel is quoted to have said, "In the writing of the Sonata for Violin and Piano, two fundamentally incompatible instruments, I assumed the task, far from bringing their differences into equilibrium, of emphasizing their irreconcilability through their independence." Winston Choi
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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