Ma mère l'Oye

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The opening of the third piece, Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodes (Little Ugly Girl, Empress of the Pagodas). These measures exhibit quartal harmony. The top line uses the pentatonic scale.[1] Play

Ma mère l'Oye (English: Mother Goose, literally "My Mother the Goose") is a suite by French composer Maurice Ravel. The piece was originally written as a five-movement piano duet in 1910. In 1911, Ravel orchestrated the work.

Piano versions[edit]

Ravel originally wrote Ma mère l'Oye as a piano duet for the Godebski children, Mimi and Jean, ages 6 and 7. Ravel dedicated this work for four hands to the children (just as he had dedicated an earlier work, Sonatine, to their parents). Jeanne Leleu and Geneviève Durony premiered the work at the first concert of the Société musicale indépendante on 20 April 1910.[2]

The piece was transcribed for solo piano by Ravel's friend Jacques Charlot the same year as it was published (1910); the first movement of Ravel's Le tombeau de Couperin was also dedicated to Charlot's memory after his death in World War I.[3]

Both piano versions bear the subtitle "cinq pièces enfantines" (five children's pieces). The five pieces are:

  1. Pavane de la Belle au bois dormant: Lent (Pavane of Sleeping Beauty)
  2. Petit Poucet: Très modéré (Little Tom Thumb / Hop-o'-My-Thumb)
  3. Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodes: Mouvt de marche (Little Ugly Girl, Empress of the Pagodas)
  4. Les entretiens de la belle et de la bête: Mouvt de valse très modéré (Conversation of Beauty and the Beast)
  5. Le jardin féerique: Lent et grave (The Fairy Garden)

Sleeping Beauty and Little Tom Thumb are based on the tales of Charles Perrault, while Little Ugly Girl, Empress of the Pagodas is inspired by a tale (The Green Serpent) by Perrault's "rival" Madame d'Aulnoy. Beauty and the Beast is based upon the version by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont. The origin of The Fairy Garden is not entirely known, although the ballet version interprets this as Sleeping Beauty being awakened in the garden by her prince.[4]

On several of the scores, Ravel included quotes to indicate clearly what he is trying to invoke. For example, for the second piece, he writes:

Il croyait trouver aisément son chemin par le moyen de son pain qu'il avait semé partout où il avait passé; mais il fut bien surpris lorsqu'il ne put retrouver une seule miette: les oiseaux étaient venus qui avaient tout mangé.

He believed he'd easily find his way because of the bread that he'd strewn all along his path; but he was very surprised to find not a single crumb: the birds had come and eaten everything.

— Charles Perrault

Orchestrated version[edit]

In 1911, Ravel orchestrated the five-piece suite. This form is the most frequently heard today.[citation needed]

Later the same year, he also expanded it into a ballet, separating the five initial pieces with four new interludes and adding two movements at the start, Prélude and Danse du rouet et scène. The ballet premiered on 29 January 1912 at the Théâtre des Arts in Paris.[5] The eleven numbers are:

  1. Prélude – Très lent
  2. Premier tableau – Danse du rouet et scène (Spinning wheel dance and scene)
  3. Deuxième tableau – Pavane de la belle au bois dormant (Sleeping Beauty pavane)
  4. Interlude
  5. Troisième tableau – Les entretiens de la belle et de la bête (Dialogues of the Beauty and the Beast)
  6. Interlude
  7. Quatrième tableau – Petit Poucet (Hop-o'-My-Thumb)
  8. Interlude
  9. Cinquième tableau – Laideronnette, impératrice des Pagodes (Empress of the Pagodas)
  10. Interlude
  11. Sixième tableau – Le jardin féerique (Fairy Garden)


Ma mère l'Oye is scored for an orchestra with the following instruments:

In popular culture[edit]

  • On his 1974 album, So What, American guitarist Joe Walsh recorded the first piano movement, which he simply titled "Pavanne", on the synthesizer.[6]
  • On his 1980 album, Bolero (also titled The Ravel Album), Japanese synthesizer artist Isao Tomita recorded the five movements of the piano version.[7]
  • In the 1984 TV short Jean Shepherd on Route 1... and Other Major Thoroughfares, an orchestral version of Le jardin féerique plays in the background while Shepherd narrates a segment about U.S. Route 22.[8]
  • The 1993 album Audrey Hepburn's Enchanted Tales includes selections from the suite.[9]
  • In the 2007 anime Clannad, the characters choose "Ma mére l'oye" (more specifically a section of "Petit Poucet: Très modéré") as the background music for their school play.
  • The 2017 film Call Me by Your Name makes extensive use of a section of Le jardin féerique,
  • In the 2021 film The Worst Person in the World, a section of Les entretiens de la belle et de la bete plays while Julie freezes time to meet with Eivind at a cafe.
  • The Korean Drama "Sky Castle" (2018-2019) employs Bolero and The Fairy Garden throughout the 20 episode saga.
  • in Rick Owen’s fall/winter 2024 women’s show titled, “porterville” a looping synth cover of the first movement is used throughout for the music. Although it is commonly mis-credited as pavane for a dead princess.


  1. ^ Benward, Bruce; Saker, Marilyn (2003). Music: In Theory and Practice, Vol. I (7th ed.). p. 37. ISBN 978-0-07-294262-0.
  2. ^ "Maurice Ravel Frontispice - Jeanne Leleu". Archived from the original on 31 March 2017. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Maurice Ravel Frontispice - Jacques Charlot". Archived from the original on 22 December 2016. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  4. ^ "Ravel : Ma Mère l'Oye". Archived from the original on 15 January 2018. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  5. ^ Concert Booklet of HKPO by Marc Rochester
  6. ^ "Pavanne (De La Belle Au Bois Dormant) - So What (Joe Walsh)". Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  7. ^ "Tomita - Daphnis et Chloé". Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  8. ^ Jean Shepherd - Route 22, retrieved 2022-02-15
  9. ^ Paris, Barry (September 2001). Audrey Hepburn. Penguin Publishing Group. ISBN 9781101127780. Retrieved 2 March 2023.

External links[edit]