Ravel Edition

Mother Goose

Mother Goose

This new revised edition 2021 (Ravel Edition Volume 7) is edited by François Dru 

The reading committee John WilsonGeorge Benjamin and Pascal Rophé.

Presenting a chronological history of Ravel's works in order of their publication, based on Durand’s book of plate numbers or “livre de cotage”, Nigel Simeone's[1] landmark article provides invaluable insights regarding the editorial historiography of “1 act ballet” Mother Goose

Originally written for piano for four hands, the collection of pieces was later arranged for orchestra during the autumn of 1911[2], when Jacques Rouché asked Ravel to recast them into a ballet. However, according to letters written by the composer himself, this orchestration was only finalised a few days before the first rehearsals and performance of the work on 29 January 1912[3]: a pivotal year for Ravel during which he added three ballets to his repertoire (Adélaïde in April and Daphnis et Chloé in June). Whilst publishing house Durand engraved the orchestral score of the 5 pièces enfantines for publication in January of the same year, with the orchestral parts following in February, surprisingly, the additions to the original piano cycle (PréludeDanse du Rouet and the interludes or “raccords” in between each number as Ravel called them) introduced in line with the storyline contrived by the composer himself[4] and then subsequently revised - changes imposed by the needs of the new production -, were only published independently in August of 1912 (after the success of the initial performances, Rouché put on the ballet again in May 1912 and March 1913, again at the Théâtre des Arts). 

Gabriel Grovlez, who conducted the première performance of the orchestration from the narrow pit inside the Théâtre des Arts with a miniature orchestra of just 32 musicians[5] (a string section spanning a maximum of six first violins down to two double basses, wind, keyboards and harp, timpani and two percussionists), made an official complaint to director Rouché regarding the “very special” nature of the orchestral parts, with which it was “impossible not to slip up.”[6] It isn’t hard to conjure up an image of all the orchestral parts, a mixture of engraved and handwritten, littered with sticky notes, crossings out and other add-ons, and filled with impossible page turns in an attempt to re-order the pieces that made up the five-movement cycle that went on to become the now well-known Mother Goose  Suite for orchestra

And so the detailed inventory provided by N. Simeone raises an important question: what about the publication of the ballet’s full orchestral score and individual parts? Whilst the reduction for solo piano arranged by Jacques Charlot - a work commended by Ravel who was too busy to take it on at the time and the one considered the most faithful to the original ballet - was published by Durand in July 1912 (the Bibliothèque nationale de France has the composer’s own invaluable copy scattered with hand-written annotations[7]), the English musicologist did not find any trace in Durand’s “livre de cotage” of any editorial work on the complete ballet carried out beforehand, even several years apart. However, during Ravel's life, several Durand monographic catalogues on the composer's works, for example those published in 1914 and 1931 (with the one published in 1911 already predicting the future orchestration of the Cinq Pièces enfantines), do indeed introduce the title Ma Mère l’Oye into the “1 act ballet” section, alongside the note “Hired parts”, which, according to the same catalogues, was also the system used for Adélaïde and the individual parts for Daphnis

The libraries of the Parisian orchestras with which Ravel was familiar (Société des Concerts du Conservatoire – now the Orchestre de Paris –, Orchestre Lamoureux, Orchestre Pasdeloup, Orchestre Colonne, and Opéra de Paris) do not provide any clarity on the matter, but rather cloud it even further. Aside from the orchestral score that belonged to Pierre Boulez and was most probably engraved during the 1970s[8], no “complete” ballet orchestral score has ever been found[9] in any of the large research libraries. This complete void extends to the listings of parts owned by the great conductors of Ravel’s works, such as C. Münch and A. Cluytens[10], who at best only possessed the first prints of the Cinq Pièces enfantinesand the additional and separate volume containing the Prélude and Danse du Rouet

To our knowledge, only the Opéra de Paris library has reverently preserved a complete “historical” score of the ballet, stamped as 26 December 1947 - a date that corresponds to the “Ravel Gala” directed by André Cluytens at the Opéra-Comique in honour of the tenth anniversary of the composer’s death. These parts (the string set-up being 8-6-6-6-3) clearly demonstrate that the score was a sort of homemade compilation of the Suite parts and the additional Prélude and Danse du Rouet. With the help of stickers, tape and other manual adjustments, the handwritten missing notes between the four Interludes (Ravel’s “raccords”, named A, B, C and D by Durand) and the main dances were evidently introduced by the librarian to the printed manuscript, as well as several cuts in Laideronnette and a repeat in the Pavane

Aspects that were overlooked by many of the music scene’s most conscientious of conductors, yet which, however, were pointed out by musicologists like Roger Nichols[11]. Also worthy of note is an observation regarding the placement of the story, confirmed by Jacques Charlot’s piano reduction, which resolves the impossible appearance of conflicting stage directions from different points in time in identical bars, still presented in the Durand edition. Whilst Arbie Orenstein made a real contribution to providing a deeper understanding of Ravel’s original score (notably by revealing bars historically missing in the first bassoon part in the Pavane), previously obscured due to a severe lack of piano and orchestral manuscripts for the Prélude, the Danse du Rouet and the “raccords”, even within the largest collections of Ravel's scores, several doubts still remained (the use of a tambour drum, sounding somewhat out of place in timbre in the Danse du Rouet, which does not appear in theinstrumentation published by Durand, and the incomprehensible way in which the fanfares are written for one open horn and one stopped horn, unless, like the fanfares in Daphnis and in line with the initial recordings by Rosenthal and Cluytens, one of the players is positioned off-stage, etc.) which we have attempted to resolve in this new 2021 revised edition.François DruMay 2021 

[1] Nigel Simeone, Mother Goose and other Golden Eggs, Brio Vol. 35 IAML UK, 1998. 

[2] There is no generic title, no completion date, nor Ravel’s usual signature on the orchestral manuscript of Cinq pièces enfantines. Carlton Lake Collection - Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin, USA. 

[3] Saturday 28, commonly referred to as the date of the first performance, was actually the date of the dress rehearsal. Cf. Arbie Orenstein, Lettres, écrits et entretiens, letter dated 26 January 1912, Flammarion, Paris, 1989. 

[4] BNF Opéra Fonds Rouché ARTS R-8 (4,17) 

[5] Roland-Manuel, Maurice Ravel et son œuvre, Éditions Durand and Fils Éditeurs, Paris, 1914, page 26. 

[6] BNF Opéra NLAS-42 (21) 

[7] BNF Musique FOL-VM6-31 (A) 

[8] BNF Musique FOL-VM FONDS 148 BLZ-254 

[9] Because of the hire system? It appears the same system was used across the Atlantic, according to the large digital collection in the archives of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and if we question who is now in possession of Monteux’s legacy. 

[10] Cluytens recorded the complete Ballet in 1962 with the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire (preceded in 1958 by Manuel Rosenthal at the Opéra de Paris who almost certainly directed the very first studio recording of the complete work. Ansermet (Decca, 1957) had omitted the interludes and recorded the dances in the order of the Suite, and not in the modified order of the Ballet). Unless we are mistaken, there is no official studio recording  of the ballet under the baton of Münch. 

[11] Roger Nichols, Ravel, Yale University Press, 2011.

This revised edition was premiered on 20 May 2021 at City Halls, Glasgow, by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Wilson

Only the full orchestral score and parts are available for sale (contact: sales@21-music.be).

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