Introduction and Allegro (Ravel)
Introduction and Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet and String Quartet (French: Introduction et allegro pour harpe, flûte, clarinette et quatuor) was written by Maurice Ravel in 1905. It premiered on 22 February 1907 in Paris.
To show off its new chromatic harp, the Pleyel company commissioned Claude Debussy in 1904 to write his Danse sacrée et danse profane for harp and orchestra. The Érard company responded by commissioning Maurice Ravel to write a piece to display the expressive range of its double-action pedal harp. Ravel completed his Introduction and Allegro for a septet of harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet in June 1905, dedicating it to Albert Blondel, director of Maison Érard. He wrote it at breakneck speed, as he had to complete it before embarking on a boating holiday with friends.
It is written in the key of G-flat major and it is the first piece to explore and exploit the full resources of the solo instrument. It is sometimes described as a miniature concerto, but it is more usually classified as a genuine chamber music work.
The Introduction and Allegro has two movements, played without a break. The Introduction, Très lent, takes only 26 bars. The Allegro in a modified sonata form begins with the solo harp expanding the material presented before. The woodwinds expose a second theme, accompanied by pizzicato. After a fortississimo climax in the development, a harp cadenza leads to a "straightforward" recapitulation and a close "without extensive fireworks or bombast of any kind". The work takes about 11 minutes to perform.
The premiere took place on 22 February 1907 at the Circle Music Hall of the French Photographic Society in Paris, featuring Micheline Kahn (harp), Philippe Gaubert (flute), M. Pichard (clarinet), and the Quartet Firmin Touche, all under the direction of Charles Domergue.
It was premiered in the United States by a group including the harpist Carlos Salzedo. Salzedo's then-wife Lucile Lawrence, also a harpist, was personally instructed by Ravel in the performance of the work.
The Introduction and Allegro was the very first of the small number of his own works that Ravel recorded (1923; Gwendolen Mason, harp; Robert Murchie, flute; Haydn P. Draper, clarinet); and it was often performed at his concerts. Yet he omitted it from the catalogue of his works, made no mention of it in his autobiography, and referred to it in only two of his letters. In one of these letters, to Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht on 26 February 1911, Ravel sanctioned the work being arranged for larger forces. In 1906 he himself had written a version for two pianos.
Later recordings include:
- Denise Herbecht with an ensemble led by Piero Coppola (1931)
- Lily Laskine, with flautist Marcel Moyse and the Quatuor Calvet (1938)
- Ann Mason Stockton and the Hollywood String Quartet
- Melos Ensemble with harpist Osian Ellis (two recordings, 1961 and 1967)
- The Melos Ensemble was founded to play chamber music like this for both woodwinds and strings, along with Beethoven's Septet and Octet, Schubert's Octet and Mendelssohn's Octet. Osian Ellis was the harpist, playing with Richard Adeney (flute), Gervase de Peyer (clarinet), Emanuel Hurwitz and Ivor McMahon (violin), Cecil Aronowitz (viola) and Terence Weil (cello).
- Marisa Robles, with Christopher Hyde-Smith, flute; Thea King, clarinet; Jürgen Hess and Galina Solodchin, violin; John Underwood, viola; Joy Hall, cello) (1970)
- Edward Druzinsky and the full string section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by Jean Martinon
- Nicanor Zabaleta.
- Maurice Ravel / Introduction & Allegro for Harp, Strings, Flute & Clarinet Peter Gutmann, Classical Notes 2003
- Maurice Ravel's Introduction et allegro: The Relationship of Three Extant Manuscripts to the Printed Edition Tinny Words 2007
- Introduction et allegro (pour harpe, flûte, clarinette et quatuor) maurice-ravel.net
- Introduction and Allegro (1907) London Sinfonietta
- Introduction et Allegro, for flute, harp, clarinet, and string quartet Classical Archives 2008
- Ravel Classical Review 2000
- Ravel - Introduction et allegro (2-piano) Media Fire
- The Early Recordings for Decca / 1950s-1962 Gervase de Peyer[dead link]
- The EMI (HMV) Recordings / 1963-1973 Gervase de Peyer[dead link]
- Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) William Hedley, musicweb-international.com 2009
- French Chamber Music. Members of the Melos Ensemble Gramophone 1983[dead link]
- Melos Ensemble of London Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
- Melos Ensemble – Music among Friends EMI[dead link]
- BAX. Elegiac Trio Gramophone 1970