21 June 2008

Ravel's hellenic foray

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) is one of my favourite composers. Thus when I came into contact with his Cinq mélodies populaires grecques more than two decades ago, I was intrigued.

The texts are apparently authentic Greek folk songs, though I am not persuaded, contrary to the person who posted this clip on Youtube, that this is true of the melodies as well. I have the sheet music somewhere, and I do recall seeing Greek and French texts between the staves. The tunes, however, were almost certainly composed by Ravel himself in what he believed to be the style of δημοτικά τραγούδια (folk songs). To my ears, however, they sound much more typically Ravel than Greek. Contrary to the writer of this review, the first song is not in G minor; this is modal music and it's in the G phrygian scale.

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