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Historic and Musical Research on Maurice Ravel’s Shéhérazade

A lecture recital approach to researching a song cycle by Maurice Ravel.
by

Christina Pezzarossi

on 4 January 2013

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Transcript of Historic and Musical Research on Maurice Ravel’s Shéhérazade

Historic and Musical Research on
Maurice Ravel’s Shéhérazade Scope Conclusions Some trouble spots... State of Research Next steps... Orientalism Tristan Klingsor and His Poetry Shéhérazade as French Mélodie Ravel Introduction The Songs Ideas behind the piece... Introduction Maurice Ravel’s Shéhérazade : trois poèmes pour chant et orchestre (ou piano): sur des vers de Tristan Klingsor is an interesting amalgamation of voice and orchestra. Full of exotic melodies and themes, the piece paints a perfect picture of a sensual Eastern Continent, highly fraught with Western stereotypes. One of the most well loved works of Eastern art in France was Scheherazade’s collection of Arabian, Indian and Persian stories he called The Arabian Nights. Asie: The declamatory poem is exceedingly long and has no inkling of melodic aptitude. The long poem is a fantastical description of the Eastern dream told by a Westerner who is in complete awe of the scenery. Many biographical resources, however they mostly included a large amount of score and performance analysis because of Ravel's very private nature. Very little information on Tristan Klingsor other than his relation to Ravel. Most of the information was found in French. Piano transcription done by Ravel himself is popular in voice recitals. This gave way to a whole new thought of Shéhérazade as French Mélodie. The sources provided both a performance guide as well as historical context. A large amount of Oriental themes are scattered throughout the piece. It became important near the end of my research to understand how Orientalism fit in with the time period as well as how Ravel used it. The research done on Ravel and his piece Shéhérazade is extensive and very well done. Most information can be found in biographical texts about Ravel. Tristan Klingsor/Léon Leclère In 1903, Léon Leclère, known better by the name Tristan Klingsor, wrote and published a book of poetry titled Shéhérazade, depicting the magic and desire of the East. Upon the publication of Klingsor’s poems, Ravel instantly fell in love with the poetry and set three of the poems to music with in a year. This cycle of songs published in 1904 was entitled Shéhérazade. La flûte enchantée & L’indifférent : Vignettes of love in the Eastern continent, full of the youthful desires of a servant first for a flute-playing lover, and then for a beautiful stranger, shrouded in sexual obscurity. The sources found on the topic of this piece include the biographical information, differing analyses of the piece, including theoretical and performance analyses, the effects of Romanticism and Orientalism in French art, and scores and recordings. Sources excluded from this research were analyses of other orchestral works by the composer, even though the piece would be considered orchestral. They were deemed unnecessary to the focus of this research.

Research was divided by search topic: Ravel, Tristan Klingsor and Shéhérazade, Shéhérazade as French Mélodie, and Orientalism. Roger Nichols. Ravel. New Haven: Yale
University Press, 2011.
First hand accounts of Ravel by family and friends ———. Ravel Remembered. New York: W.W. Norton &
Company, 1987.
Historical context of the piece Myers, Rollo H. Ravel: Life and Works. Westport: Greenwood
Press, Publishers, 1960.
Best true biography and great analysis Pronger, Lester. la poésie de Tristan Klingsor. Paris:
Lettre Modernes, 1965.
Source was in French, but contained all his poetry and a biography Bernac, Pierre. The Interpretation of French Song. New
York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1970.
Best performance analysis, with translations and tempi Johnson, Graham and Richard Stokes. A French Song
Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Best poetic translations as well as history and theoretical analysis Noske, Frits. French Song from Berlioz to Duparc: The
Origin and Development of the Mélodie. New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 1970.
History of French mélodie before Ravel
Not terribly important unless more research is needed on mélodie Ferber, Michael, ed. A companion to European
Romanticism. Malden, MA ; Oxford : Blackwell Pub., 2005.
Compilation of Essays, one specifically on Orientalism Deruchie, Andrew. “Ravel’s Shéhérazade and Fin-de-
Siècle Orientalism.” Master’s thesis, McGill University, 2000.
Master's thesis pertaining to my topic directly
Best source!! Very few recent dissertations and theses exist on the topic directly. Recent articles are also very hard to find unless they are reviews of performances. Research on Tristan Klingsor is not efficient enough for the project. Not much research on Tristan Klingsor other than his relation to Ravel. Ravel's Shéhérazade, ouverture de féerie came up in a lot of searches as did Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. Ravel's private life causes a lot of speculation, but not necessarily truth. Extensive theoretical analysis that is more recent Biographical information on Ravel that is not just by word of mouth ...Otherwise the wealth of information on the piece is fantastic. The purpose of this research was to present a lecture recital on the piece and include as much information as possible.
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