Miroirs is a suite for solo piano written by French composer Maurice Ravel between 1904 and 1905. First performed by Ricardo Viñes in 1906, Miroirs contains five movements, each dedicated to a fellow member of the French avant-garde artist group, Les Apaches.
Around 1900, Maurice Ravel joined a group of innovative young artists, poets, critics, and musicians referred to as Les Apaches or "hooligans", a term coined by Ricardo Viñes to refer to his band of "artistic outcasts". To pay tribute to his fellow artists, Ravel began composing Miroirs in 1904 and finished it the following year. It was first published by E. Demets in 1906. Movements 3 and 4 were subsequently orchestrated by Ravel, while Movement 5 was orchestrated by Percy Grainger, among others.
Audio recording of Miroirs
Performed in 2014 by Olena Havyuk-Sheremet
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Miroirs has five movements, each dedicated to a member of Les Apaches:
- Noctuelles ("Night Moths"). Dedicated to Léon-Paul Fargue, Noctuelles is a highly chromatic work, maintaining a dark, nocturnal mood throughout. The middle section is calm with rich, chordal melodies, and the recapitulation takes place a fifth below the first entry.
- Oiseaux tristes ("Sad Birds"). Dedicated to Ricardo Viñes, this movement represents a lone bird whistling a sad tune, after which others join in. The rambunctious middle section is offset by a solemn cadenza which brings back the melancholy mood of the beginning.
- Une barque sur l'océan ("A Boat on the Ocean"). Dedicated to Paul Sordes, the piece recounts a boat as it sails upon the waves of the ocean. Arpeggiated sections and sweeping melodies imitate the flow of ocean currents. It is the longest piece of the set, and the second most technically difficult.
- Alborada del gracioso ("Morning Song of the Jester"). Dedicated to Michel-Dimitri Calvocoressi, Alborada is a technically challenging piece that incorporates Spanish musical themes into its complicated melodies.
- La vallée des cloches ("The Valley of Bells"). Dedicated to Maurice Delage, the piece evokes the sounds of various bells through its use of sonorous harmonies.
"Une barque sur l'océan" and "Alborada del gracioso" were orchestrated by Ravel himself. "La vallée des cloches" has been orchestrated by Ernesto Halffter (instrumentation: triple woodwind, four horns, timpani, percussion, 2 harps, celesta and strings; publisher: Eschig) and Percy Grainger (a typical Grainger ensemble with multiple pianos and percussion, plus strings). "Oiseaux tristes" has been scored by Felix Günther (instrumentation: double woodwind plus piccolo, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, percussion, harp, celesta and strings; publisher: Edward B Marks Music Corp, 1941) though aimed at intermediate rather than advanced players, transposed down a semitone and with some of Ravel's rhythms simplified. The only known orchestration of No 1, "Noctuelles", is by the British pianist Michael Round, an orchestration commissioned by Vladimir Ashkenazy and recorded by him with the NHK Symphony Orchestra (Exxon, 1993) – the recording also includes Round's scorings of the Fugue and Toccata from Le tombeau de Couperin. In orchestrated form "Noctuelles" is scored for triple woodwind (including E-flat clarinet) less a contrabassoon; four horns, three trumpets, three trombones and tuba; timpani, percussion, two harps, celesta and strings. Performance material (for hire only) is held by publishers BMG. There is a more recent orchestration (2001) of Noctuelles by American composer Steven Stucky. It is published by Theodore Presser Company and is scored thus: 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 2 3(Cbsn.) - 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Cel. 2Hp. Str. The British composer Simon Clarke made an orchestration of the three movements that Ravel did not orchestrate.
- "Miroirs". Maurice Ravel Frontispice. http://www.maurice-ravel.net/miroirs.htm
- "Miroirs". Piano Society. http://www.pianosociety.com/cms/index.php?section=171
- Orenstein, 1991, p. 28