Classical Music | Violin Music

Maurice Ravel

Sonata for Violin and Piano  Play

Kate Carter Violin
Louise Chan Piano

Recorded on 09/17/2016, uploaded on 04/15/2017

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


Violin Sonata No. 2       Maurice Ravel

Maurice Ravel wrote the Sonata for Violin and Piano over the course of four years, from 1923-1927. The piece highlights what the composer felt was the essential incompatibility of the two instruments by emphasizing their independence. The first movement contrasts two main themes between the instruments: elegant flowing lines versus insistent rhythmic figures that lead up to a clanging, gamelan-like climax. 

The second movement, titled “Blues,” is the French composer’s take on a style that he believed was one of America’s greatest musical assets. The opening plucked chords of the violin imitate a guitar or banjo, and are followed by the piano entrance written in the “wrong” key, A-flat against the violin’s G major. The violin then plays a melody reminiscent of Gershwin’s “Summertime,” which is carried throughout the movement.

The third and final movement begins with humorous fits and starts - possibly an homage to Ravel’s fascination with wind-up toys - before giving way to a brilliantly virtuosic and relentless perpetual motion.       Notes by Kate Carter and Louise Chan