Sonatine - Maurice Ravel

This week features one of Maurice Ravel's (1875-1937) most popular works for the piano, his "Sonatine."  Music historians often regard Ravel as a composer of the impressionist era, alongside Claude Debussy. As a student at the Paris Conservatory, he challenged his mentors with his progressive sounding compositions. Later in his career, he mixed elements from the Baroque music, the Classical era, and jazz, with modern textures and harmonies. His violin sonata, completed in 1927, demonstrates combining these different elements, including the blues-inspired second movement. Ravel's two piano concertos (including one for only the pianist's left hand), "Daphnis et Chloé", "Pavane pour une infante défunte" ("Pavane for a dead princess"), and "Bolero" remain popular with orchestral audiences for his use of melodiy, timbre, and texture. An earlier composition, his "Sonatine" (1903-5) is a neoclassical piece built around the sonata/sonatina form popular in Europe during the late Baroque, and Classical eras.

This virtuosic piece illustrates Ravel's interest in texture and harmony. The first movement begins with lyrical melody above a running accompaniment in the middle of the keyboard. The second movement is also lyrical, but does not have the ornamentation one might associate with the slow movements of sonata form composed by classical composers like Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Instead of using rhythmic activity, Ravel creates interest through his use of complex chords and harmonies. The final movement returns many of the virtuosic traits and sonata-allegro form heard in the first movement. He wrote this movement in the style of a toccata, using diverse textures and articulations.

Find more details about this piece on Richard Dowling's website.