Classical Music Library Free Download of the Week

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Every two weeks, Alexander Street offers a free music download from our popular online music collection. This download is freely available, regardless of whether or not your library subscribes to the collection.

Ma mère l'oye by Maurice Ravel

French composer Maurice Ravel's magical Mother Goose was written between 1908 and 1910 as a piano duet for Mimi and Jean Godbeski, children of a family friend. Based on the fairy tales of Perrault, Mme d'Aulnay, and Le Prince de Beaumont, it was orchestrated in 1911 and then, with added material, turned into a ballet.

In this most personal of pieces, Ravel makes reference to lifelong preoccupations: birdsong, the sounds of Asia, mechanical toys, and the innocence of childhood. Indeed as the composer himself said, "The Ravel of Mother Goose reveals to us the secret of his profound nature, and shows us the soul of a child".

Each of these exquisite miniatures conjures up a unique sound world wholly appropriate to the individual fairy-tale titles. The Empress of the Pagodas, for example, takes her bath to eastern sounds, inspired no doubt by the Javanese gamelan. And the wonderful tale of Beauty and the Beast is portrayed by a lilting melody and grotesque parody of Debussy's Prelude a l'apres-midi, the Beast turned into prince charming via a transforming glissando.

Ravel's precise and expert orchestration results in some wonderful effects. The birdsong in Tom Thumb is produced by violin harmonics and fluttering flutes, and Ravel uses all sorts of colorful instruments such as the celesta, harp, glockenspiel and xylophone. The suite ends appropriately with a whirlwind of color as The Fairy Garden reaches its conclusion.

This recording is performed by the Orchestre Symphonique de Radio-Télé-Luxembourg, under the direction of Louis De Froment.

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