Maurice Ravel, the distinguished French composer, pianist and conductor, originally composed this work to celebrate the tradition of Francois Couperin, the eighteenth century French composer. First arranged for piano, four of the movements were later orchestrated, in 1919, for orchestra. Tonight, you will hear two of them entitled Menuet and Rigaudon. I am not sure what the correct musical interpretation is, but from my perspective, I found them somewhat wistful and, at the same time, rather jolly with shades of Vaughan Williams’ folk music.
Ravel was called up in 1916, at the relatively late age of forty, and served in the artillery as a truck driver in the front line. One year later, he was discharged on medical grounds suffering from tuberculosis. While convalescing in Normandy, he completed Le Tombeau. He dedicated each of the movements to individual soldiers he had known and who perished at the front. One might have expected a certain solemnity in these circumstances, but not a bit of it, the two movements performed tonight are rather sparkly and easy on the ear.
Stephen Armitage, Violin 2