Ma mère l'Oye

Subtitled (in its version for piano, four hands) "cinq pièces enfantines", the "Mother Goose" suite draws upon the fairy-tales of Perrault, Mme d'Aulnoy, and Mme de Beaumont for its inspiration, and Ravel sought to write piano music that could be played by children, as well as reflecting the world of childhood. The five original pieces are:

1. Pavane de la Belle au Bois Dormant
2. Petit Poucet
3. Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodes
4. Les Entretiens de la Belle et de la Bête
5. Le Jardin féerique.

No.1 was written in September 1908, and then, with the encouragement of his publisher Jacques Durand, Ravel wrote the others in April 1910. They are dedicated to the two children of his friends the Godebskis, Mimie and Jean, with the intention that they would give the first performance. In the event, it proved too difficult for them, and the work was performed at a concert in the Salle Gaveau on 20.iv.1910, by the 11-year old Jeanne Leleu and the 14-year old Geneviève Durony.

In 1911 Ravel wrote an orchestral version of the suite, and this became the basis of the ballet which was performed in January 1912. For this Ravel wrote some additional pieces (a Prélude and Danse du rouet et scène) as well as some connecting interludes.

"Between 1906 and 1908 we used to have long holidays at my parents' house in the country, La Grangette at Valvins. It was there that Ravel finished, or at least brought us, Ma mère l'Oye. But neither my brother nor I was of an age to appreciate such a dedication and we regarded it rather as something entailing hard work. Ravel wanted us to give the first public performance by the idea fill me with a cold terror. My brother, being less timid and more gifted on the piano, coped quite well. But despite lessons from Ravel I used to freeze to such an extent that the idea had to be abandoned." (Mimie Godebska Blacque-Belair [1938], translated by Nichols [1987], p.21).

" Ma mère l'Oye, pièces enfantines pour piano à quatre mains, date de 1908. Le dessein d'évoquer dans ces pièces la poésie de l'enfance m'a naturellement conduit à simplifier ma manière et à dépouiller mon écriture. J'ai tiré de cet ouvrage un ballet qui fut monté par le Théâtre des Arts: l'ouvrage fut écrit à Valvins à l'intention de mes jeunes amis Mimie et Jean Godebski." (Ravel [1938]).