Ravel Edition

String Quartet

String Quartet 

Revised edition edited by François Dru with the collaboration of Benjamin Attahir and the Arod String Quartet  : Jordan Victoria and Alexandre Vu (violons), Tanguy Parisot (viola), Jérémy Garbarg (cello). 

Ravel’s String Quartet, with no mention of any tonality[1], according to the terminology commonly used by the “Société Nationale de musique” and the composer’s own words in the epigraph to his inked manuscript[2], is one of the composer’s rare works to be reproduced in several different publications and successive alterations. Although the score was completed in April 1903, according to the date that appears after the last bar of the fourth movement[3], the première of the work given by the Heymann Quartet[4] on Saturday 5 March 1904 at a Société Nationale[5] concert was almost certainly performed from handwritten parts that have since disappeared. It wasn’t until 1905, and not the previous year as recounted by numerous publications[6], that the first engraving of the work was published by publishing house “G. Astruc & Cie”. To date, there are only a few copies of this original score and parts left[7]. A comparative study of Ravel’s handwritten score and this 1905 publication provides an interesting insight into the evolution of the way in which various musical features were written, use of double and triple stops, use of harmonics, and agogic accents, undoubtedly corrected after the work had been dissected by the musicians of the Société Nationale: experienced string players who would have been able to employ their expert knowledge to assist the young composer fresh out of the Paris Conservatoire.

A perusal of several musical journals and concert reviews demonstrates that Ravel’s “String Quartet” was regularly performed, notably by the Parent Quartet in 1907 and of course the Capet Quartet, amongst others: fresh performances that undoubtedly enabled the composer, who throughout his life was always open to advice from instrumentalists, to refine his work and to perfect his specialist understanding of string writing.

A letter dated 12 October 1910[8],, sent by Ravel to “Mr G. Astruc & Cie” reads: “I have the honour of informing you that I approve the transfer made by us to MMrs Durand & Cie of my two works “Shéhérazade” and “String Quartet”. By way of the present letter, I fully discharge you.”

The Durand book of plate numbers[9], indicates that this second edition was legally deposited on 24 December 1910[10], and that the score was printed in a run of five hundred copies[11]. Another comparison of the two successive editions would suggest that Durand, as well as legally acquiring the rights over the title, was also able to acquire the lead plates that had been used to produce the 1905 engraving, given that the composition of the pages and the fonts used are completely identical. Some corrections were introduced and, once again, the composer modified some technicalities specifically relating to string writing, however no direct record was ever kept of the corrections made by the composer himself or by any editor. This effective “revised edition” was therefore never mentioned by the work’s second publishing house, located in the Place de la Madeleine.

Through this revised 2021 edition, based on the 1902-1903 manuscript and the very first 1905 edition, we hope to have succeeded in reproducing what represents the first great masterpiece of a young twenty-eight-year-old composer, whilst incorporating the amendments that went on to give rise to the revised 1910 publication. François Dru – March 2022 (The above text cannot be reproduced, even partially, without prior authorisation from the publisher.)

[1] To our knowledge, it was Roland-Manuel, in Maurice Ravel et son œuvre – Editions Durand, Paris 1914, who first qualified the score as “in F”, who also went on to introduce tonalities to the titles of the composer’s two piano concertos. In his 1928 “biographical  sketch”, although we can’t be sure whether the terminology came directly from the composer or from Roland-Manuel who corrected and edited the final text, Ravel refers to his “Quartet in F”.

[2] The full ink manuscript is stored in the Palace of Monaco Archives.

[3] The full programme was: 1. Ravel, String Quartet 2. Chabrier, Pièces pittoresques 3. Mariotte, Trois Sonatines d’automne and 4. Castillon, Quartet for Piano and Strings.

Instrumentalists who were already known for giving the initial performances of César Franck’s Quintet at the “Société”, amongst others. 

[4] “December 1902” appears in the manuscript at the end of the second movement.

[5] Instrumentalists who were already known for giving the initial performances of César Franck’s Quintet at the “Société”, amongst others. 

[6] On one of the proofs, the fourth one, “14 February 1905” is indicated by way of a date stamp. The work could therefore not have been published in 1904.

[7] A copy in perfect condition can be found at the Morgan Library in New York – PMC 2011, the copy present in the BNF collection (VMR-37) is “incommunicable”, and the Ravel Edition was able to get hold of a set of individual parts from 1905 in new condition.


[9], Ravel had initiated his relationship with Éditions Durand during the autumn of 1905 for the publication of his Sonatine.

[10]As well as the reduction for piano, four hands produced by Maurice Delage (D&F. 7951).

[11] The vocal/piano part for Shéhérazade was legally deposited on 14 January 1911 and was printed in a run of three hundred copies.

The score and the parts are available for sale. Contact: sales@21-music.be

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