Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Fauré

In September 1922, the Revue musicale published a special number dedicated to the 77 year old Gabriel Fauré. Ravel was one of several composers who were asked to compose a piece of music as an accompanying tribute, and he obliged (just in time) with the Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Fauré for violin and piano; it was composed in September 1922, "en une seule journée" [ms.].

Fauré to Ravel, 15 October 1922:

  "Je suis très touché de ce que vous ayez voulu participer, malgré tous vos travaux, à ce numéro de La Revue qui sera certainement le plus beau fleuron de ma couronne. Tout ce que vous y avez apporté de cordial et d'exquis, par la parole et par la musique m'a profondément pénétré et je vous en remercie de tout coeur.
  Je compte vos étapes, cher ami, depuis le faubg Poissonnière et je suis plus heureux que vous ne le sauriez croire de la place - solide - que vous occupez et que vous avez acquise si brillamment et si rapidement. C'est pour votre vieux professeur de la joie et de la fierté[...]
  J'espère que votre santé est aussi bonne que possible."

(Orenstein, [1989], letter 207)

Ravel was staying at the time at the Dreyfus family home at Lyons-la-Forêt, and as well as its official purpose, the Berceuse carries an additional dedication to Claude Roland-Manuel, the baby son who had just been born to his friend Roland-Manuel. It was one of the few pieces that Ravel was able to complete at that period when he was still trying to come to terms with the death of his mother and the ill-health which followed.

The work's first performance took place in Milan, at the end of October or beginning of November 1922, in a concert of Ravel's music organised by the journal Il Convegno; Ravel played the piano part himself. The complete set of pieces composed for Fauré was played at a concert in Paris on 13 December 1922; the Berceuse was played by Hélène Jourdan-Morhange and Mme Raymond Charpentier. [The other composers represented in the tribute were George Enesco, Louis Aubert, Florent Schmitt, Charles Koechlin, Paul Ladmirault, and Roger-Ducasse.]

The theme of the Berceuse is formed by adapting the letters of Fauré's name to form the sequence GABDBEE FAGDE (with the same system that Ravel had previously used for the Menuet sur le nom d'Haydn). If the piece's duration of 3 minutes seems a meagre tribute to his most significant mentor, it may confirm the emotional and creative difficulties that Ravel was experiencing at the time.

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