Gaspard de la nuit
Gaspard de la nuit: Trois poèmes pour piano d'après Aloysius Bertrand is a suite of pieces for solo piano by Maurice Ravel, written in 1908. It has three movements, each based on a poem by Aloysius Bertrand. The work was premiered in Paris, on January 9, 1909, by Ricardo Viñes.
The piece is famous for its difficulty, partly because Ravel intended the Scarbo movement to be more difficult than Balakirev's Islamey. Because of its technical challenges and profound musical structure, Scarbo is considered one of the most difficult solo piano pieces ever written.
The name "Gaspard" is derived from its original Persian form, denoting "the man in charge of the royal treasures": "Gaspard of the Night" or the treasurer of the night thus creates allusions to someone in charge of all that is jewel-like, dark, mysterious, perhaps even morose.
Of the work, Ravel himself said: "Gaspard has been a devil in coming, but that is only logical since it was he who is the author of the poems. My ambition is to say with notes what a poet expresses with words."
Based on the poem "Ondine", an oneiric tale of a water fairy singing to seduce the observer into visiting her kingdom deep at the bottom of a lake. It is reminiscent of Ravel's early piano masterpiece, the Jeux d'eau (1901), with the sounds of water falling and flowing, woven with cascades. This piece contains technical problems for the right hand such as the fast repetition of three-note chords. The duration of Ondine is about 6:30.
. . . . . . . . Je croyais entendre
. . . . . . . . I thought I heard
Based on the poem "Le Gibet", the observer is presented with a view of the desert, where the lone corpse of a hanged man on a gibbet stands out against the horizon, reddened by the setting sun; the sound of a bell tolls from inside the walls of a far-off city, creating the deathly atmosphere that surrounds the observer. Throughout the entire piece is a B-flat octave ostinato, imitative of the tolling bell, that must remain distinctive and constant in tone as the notes cross over and dynamics change. The duration of Le Gibet is about 7:15.
Que vois-je remuer autour de ce Gibet?
What do I see stirring around that gibbet?
|“||I wanted to make a caricature of romanticism. Perhaps it got the better of me.||”|
Based on the poem "Scarbo (2)", this movement depicts the nighttime mischief of a small fiend or goblin, making pirouettes, flitting in and out of the darkness, disappearing and suddenly reappearing. Its uneven flight, hitting and scratching against the walls, casting a growing shadow in the moonlight, creates a nightmarish scene for the observer lying in his bed. With its repeated notes and two terrifying climaxes, this is the high point of technical difficulty of the three movements. Technical difficulties include repeated notes in both hands, and double-note scales in major seconds in the right hand. Ravel reportedly said about Scarbo: "I wanted to write an orchestral transcription for the piano." The duration of Scarbo is about 8:30.
Il regarda sous le lit, dans la cheminée, dans le bahut;
He looked under the bed, in the chimney,
- "The Brilliant Music of Ravel" by Charles Rosen (review of Ravel by Roger Nichols), The New York Review of Books (10 November 2011) (subscription required)
- Bruhn, Siglind (1997). Images and Ideas in Modern French Piano Music: the Extra-musical Subtext in Piano Works by Ravel, Debussy, and Messiaen. Aesthetics in music 6. Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon Press. p. xxviii. ISBN 0-945193-95-5. OCLC 37573693.
- Alexander Eccles (Spring 2004). "Gaspard de la nuit: Horror and Elegance". .stanford.edu. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
- Ravel, Maurice (1988). Ravel according to Ravel. compiled Vlado Perlemuter, Hélène Jourdan-Morhange; trans. Frances Tanner; ed. Harold Taylor. London: Kahn & Averill. ISBN 0-900707-94-1. OCLC 17983922.
- Piano & Keyboard: The Bimonthly Piano Quarterly. Vol. 184–189. p. 62. String Letter Press, 1997. "The entire Gaspard de la Nuit was not intended as a 'caricature of romanticism'. That statement of Ravel to Vlado Perlemuter only referred to 'Scarbo'."
- "Ravel – Goossens: Gaspard de la nuit (arr. 1942)" at Boosey & Hawkes
- Piano Society.com – Ravel – Gaspard de la nuit – includes free recordings of "Ondine" and "Scarbo".
- Gaspard de la nuit: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- BBC Discovering music podcast – Includes lecture and performance – 1 hour and 30 minutes (RealPlayer)
- The Shady Lane Publishing Includes Creative Commons recording and sheet music of "Le gibet" transcription for two guitars by M. Jacquot.