CORNERSTONE LESSON RAVEL
Professor Hagai Shaham explains the many topics of this genial composition, showing the parts which mostly express the typical Hungarian romantic style. He teaches how to achieve the proper expression of the piece, which is very much demanding regarding the strength of sound and tension.
History of the piece
Beginning in 1900 and for four consecutive years. Ravel submitted works to compete for the Grand Prix de Rome in Composition. In each case, he failed to take the first prize. He entered one final time in 1905 at the age of thirty, which was the age limit for eligibility. By that time he had published several successful works including Jeux d'eau and the String Quartet. The faculty at the conservatory disqualified his entry because he refused to abide by traditional academic rules of composition, and, therefore, his works were considered, in their staid opinion, "dangerously progressive". And they were somehow pretty right!
In fact, about his earliest music education. Ravel recounted, "I was much interested in mechanisms... I visited factories often, very often, as a small boy with my father. It was these machines, their clicking, and roaring, which, with the Spanish folk songs sung to me at night-time as a Berceuse by my mother, formed my first instruction in music!".
From his father then, Maurice Ravel acquired his appreciation for well-crafted machinery. Stravinsky even referred to him as "the most perfect of Swiss clockmakers," alluding to the fact that Ravel would never let anyone see a work until he was sure there was not a single detaU on which he could improve.
What to expect in the Masterclass
Main Elements of the composition
If we make a quick sum of the aspects mentioned above of Ravel's personality, we can clearly understand where all the elements of the Tzigane come from; the name of the piece derives from the generic European word for "Gipsy", in French Gitane, or Tzigane. However, as a matter of fact, it does not contain any authentic Gipsy melodies. The composer only needed a folk music atmosphere, which allowed him to make a very well calculated Rhapsodic sequence of genial ideas, organised in a perfect mechanism. With the Tzigane, Ravel also demonstrates his ability to imitate the style of violin showmanship, previously promoted by virtuosi like Paganini and Sarasate.
It's a 10-minute one-movement composition, for piano and violin, and our masterclass is divided into two parts; in the first part, Maestro Shaham teaches how to achieve the proper expression of the piece, which is very much demanding concerning the strength of sound and tension. In the second part, our Master Teacher Shaham shows what differences we have to consider when playing this great composition in its second part and on to the final section, with particular regards to :
- Expression of Fantasy - fingering, and tempos
- Happy mood without being Agitato
- Techniques and dynamics of the Finale