Published by Schott Music, 2017, 2018
performed by Vyacheslav Gryaznov & Nikolay Kozhin, piano
FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE TRANSCRIPTIONS
Isn’t it surprising that the music of «Daphnis et Chloe» — Ravel’s masterpiece — has not had a proper piano arrangement? It is especially strange because many works of the French composer have «doubles» — the piano or, on the contrary, the orchestral transcription, done by the author. There are a lot of examples: «Menuet antique», «Pavane pour une infante dеfunte», «Une barque sur l’ocean» and «Alborada del gracioso» from the piano cycle «Miroirs», the «Rapsodie espagnole», «Valses nobles et sentimentales», «Le tombeau de Couperin», a choreographic poem «La Valse» (for which, by the way, Ravel did two transcriptions — for one and two pianos). Large and most significant cycles were left unique, not having a pair (we will not consider operas now). These are «Gaspard de la nuit» for piano and the ballet «Daphnis et Chloe». It is known, that there are only sketches of the author’s orchestration of the piano cycle, and only a few fragments of the ballet arranged by the author for one piano have been published. It is worth noticing that the composer worked on these things at the same time — the ballet was created in the period of 1907 — 1912, and the «Gaspard» was finished in 1908.
It was a great Russian choreographer Mikhail Fokine who had an idea to make a ballet on an antic plot. He could not get support in the Mariinsky Theater in Saint-Petersburg but he was lucky to be understood by Ravel who became interested in the Longus’ novel «Daphnis et Chloe». No wonder this novel became famous all over the world due to the translation done by the French philologist Jacques Amyot (16th century). Many pastorals, which were so popular in European literature in the 17th and 18th centuries were based on «Daphnis et Chloe» and these names became classic for the pastoral genre.
Still, the Longus’ novel is not so simple and naive as it could seem to be at first, and the main point of it cannot be reduced just to a pastoral. There is a mild irony in it and a moral, which is not obtrusive; some erotic element of it is not vulgar, and the idyll is not too sweet. It is a hymn of love. Love, which is real, sensuous and very pure at the same time. And Eros is interpreted here as not just a playful chubby boy with a bow and arrows. Longus’ Eros is «older than Saturn, and the whole time of this Universe», «he rules elements, rules stars, rules gods equal to him».
The plot of Longus’ novel was seriously shortened and simplified to make a ballet. So, Ravel used other methods than Longus did to avoid pastoral naivete and to build his own masterpiece.
I think it won’t be an exaggeration to say that the main expressive means in this ballet is an orchestra. Not without a reason did Ravel name this work a «choreographic symphony». The music in the ballet and especially in its last part (the Second Suite) is not just rich in colors, timbers, aromas — it is sumptuous. All in it bewitches you — its soft and beautiful water-colour painting, its exquisite harmonies which are like tart wine, its overwhelming power, its impetuous bacchanalia dance, not stripped of some antique wildness.
It was even more interesting to try to express all of this by the means of a piano (two pianos, to be more exact, for one piano evidently will not be enough), and even try to compete with the orchestra.
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FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE TRANSCRIPTIONS
I had quite a different task while I was working on the arrangement of «Habanera» from the opera «Karmen» by G. Bizet. I did it on the request from my first teacher M. Kandelaki for her pupils — Lisa (she is 8 years old, and plays the first part), and Nikita (he is 9, the second part). They study at the Central Music School in Moscow and they already are laureates of international competitions. Still, they remain children — and the arrangement technically was aimed at children’s abilities. But a fantasy of a teacher and players themselves can be broadly expressed in this small piece. For this piece can suggest some story and even gives an opportunity to make a small performance — from this point of view it is nice that the boy plays the second part, and the girl plays the first one.
I hope that young artists will like «Habanera For Two». I have to note, however, that this piece turned out to be not just «for children only». Regarded as a jocose «light dessert» it can awake the interest of professional pianists. The fact is that piano duets have a modest choice of small encore numbers comparing to solo pianists. I will be glad if «Habanera For Two» helps to improve this situation a bit.
That is why these two so different stories of love — the great work of Ravel and the small musical joke — are put in the same volume.
Written for the Family Ensemble Festival.
Performed by Vyacheslav Gryaznov & Alexander Gryaznov