Hommage à Ravel
Minuet and Fugue
Among the great melodists of the twentieth century, Maurice Ravel remains
for me an inspiration, one among many. Britannica writes of Ravel
that he was "for the most part content to work within the established formal
and harmonic conventions of his day, still firmly rooted in tonality --
i.e., the organization of music around focal tones." Igor Stravinsky
compared Ravel's work to that of "the most perfect of Swiss watchmakers."
Such an estimation is indeed a great homage, or hommage.
After a century of generally generally empty musicological rhetoric
"liberating" tones, rhythms, meters and bar lines, it remains to Ravel and
fellow tonal composers to remind that one might forge a musical vocabulary
indelibly one's own from the same tonal materials as one's tonal forbearers.
This seems especially so when one looks back to survey the enormous and
quite average opus of atonal and dodecaphonic composers, set theorists and
avant-garde enthusiasts who combine to form a morass of rather uninteresting
art experiments generally eschewed by the general public. Their proponents
today fight a rear guard action to enforce this losing aesthetic stance on
students who then escape the strictures of musical academia to forge their
own paths into a musical future uncovered day by passing day. In only the
last years the redoubtable New York Times music commentators made the
seemingly startling discovery that "tonal" music was experiencing a
resurgence amongst contemporary classical composers. I suspect, in their
earnest enthusiasm over previous decades, they did not see that classical
tonal music had not expired according to some historical imperative, but
rather was always there to be found -- should one have simply looked.
I chose to make "hommage" -- the French spelling -- to Ravel and his so very
personal and individual" understanding of common practice musical principles
with this simple minuet and fugue. The performer is urged to employ any and
all stylistic understandings and colorations as might seem apt in thinking
about the fine works of Ravel to thereby color this piece.
The accompanied fugue subject is related to the opening gesture of the
minuet, and continues in "common practice" through to its coda, a short
revisit to the minuet theme. The tonal regions visited are dictated by the
harmonic structure of the minuet itself.
The score to Hommage à Ravel is available as a free PDF download,
though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is
prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. The violin part is
attached at the end of the file, as a separate score. Click on the graphic
below for this piano score.
Hommage à Ravel