Description: Ravel' s "Tombeau de Couperin," a suite for piano, was published in 1918 by Durand. Its first performance was in the Salle Gaveau in Paris in April, 1919. Shortly afterwards Ravel scored four of the six movements of the piano suite for small orchestra, composed of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns in pairs, English horn, trumpet, harp, and strings, The new version was introduced in America in 1920. The four orchestrated movements, Prelude, Forlane, Menuet, and Rigaudon, have no programmatic content and the titles identify the forms used. "Le Tombeau de Couperin" is a souvenir of World War I. Each movement is dedicated to the memory of a French soldier fallen in battle. The "Tombeau" form dates from the seventeenth century and is a musical "homage" to Francois Couperin, clavecinist of Louis XIV, and one of the great names of French music. "The separate movements, cast in eighteenth century dance forms often used by Qouperin have been described as "tonal wreaths," not too somber nor too profuse, laid with tenderness on an unforgotten tomb." This piece represents Ravel's extreme effort to express himself in the simplest possible manner. The music is subtly archaic; form, line and texture artfully suggest eighteenth century, but the harmony suggests twentieth century. "A transparent serenity full of color and feeling pervades this piece of classic purity written in tribute to Ravel's fallen comrades." A study of the piano suite has been made. The pieces are charmingly and precisely orchestrated. They have been used for a ballet which will not be dealt with.
Date: July 1947
Creator: Henderson, Ruth, musician.