Our series on the music of the French composer Maurice Ravel continues this week with Le Jardin Feerique (The Fairy Garden), an excerpt from his famous Mother Goose Suite. You’re more than welcome to listen to the full Mother Goose Suite on your own, but I wanted to highlight this especially beautiful part of the Suite in this week’s email.
The Pavane for a Dead Princess, Ravel’s first exceptionally popular composition (which we listened to last week), was actually the beginning of the journey that led to the Mother Goose Suite. Building on the success of the Pavane, he wrote a second and a third Pavane in the hopes that they would increase his fame. While they were not as successful on their own, he was able to combine them into a book of Pavanes and etudes for young pianists that was quite popular. This collection became the inspiration for the Mother Goose Suite after Ravel decided to create a “musical storybook” for children. He proceeded to write several duets for young pianists and combined them into what we now know as the Mother Goose Suite, later orchestrating it into a full-size ballet at the request of the Paris Symphony Orchestra.
This movement, titled “The Fairy Garden,” is the final movement of the Mother Goose Suite. It has been described as the closest thing Ravel ever wrote to a Requiem. Instead of ending the Suite with a dashing finale like most other composers would have done, Ravel opted to conclude the Suite with this meditative, soul-searching chorale composition. It reminds me of Rachmaninoff’s gut-wrenching Requiem more than it does a children’s musical storybook, but it is nonetheless a powerful and moving work. Sit back and enjoy Ravel’s amazing genius.