Monthly Archives: September 2012

Sviatoslav Richter & Maurice Ravel’s Alborada del Gracioso (from Miroirs)

“I am not a complete idiot, but whether from weakness or laziness have no talent for thinking. I know only how to reflect: I am a mirror . . . Logic does not exist for me. I float on the waves of art and life and never really know how to distinguish what belongs to the one or the other or what is common to both. Life unfolds for me like a theatre presenting a sequence of somewhat unreal sentiments; while the things of art are real to me and go straight to my heart.”
–Sviatoslav Richter

Richter was a famous Soviet pianist of the 20th century, born in Zhytomyr, Ukraine. I had a chance to read and watch his biography, “Richter: The Enigma”, a while ago (done by Bruno Monsaingeon). He seemed like quite a character: intensely private, he never discussed his personal life until Monsaingeon convinced him to relent during his later years (in fact, the last year of his life); he had some unconventional views concerning performances; he disliked airplanes and traveled to his venues by train or ship whenever possible; disliked the studio recording process (in fact, according to his biography, even disliked being recorded talking); and did not maintain students (or perhaps had very few, I don’t remember exactly) due to his being such a natural pianist that he felt if he had to analyze his own technique in order to explain it, he would surely lose it in Heisenberg fashion.

From reading his biography and watching the documentary… I think I would have found him a most sincere man; I wish I could have met him. If you get a chance, you should watch the documentary too.

Miroirs (translated as ‘Reflections’) is a solo piano suite (of five pieces) written by Maurice Ravel around 1905. Each piece is dedicated to a fellow member of an Impressionistic group ‘Les Apaches.’ Ravel had joined Les Apaches (‘Hooligans’) around 1900; the artistic group is comprised of artists, poets, critics, and musicians. Alborada del Gracioso (#4) translates as the morning love song (alborada) of a medieval jester (gracioso). Aubades (as they are called in English), are usually the material of medieval troubadours, usually where the lyrics revolved around unrequited love. As one can hear in the piece, there are the sprightly major sections that sandwich a mournful minor section. Spanish influence pervades the music.

Miroirs (Reflections)
1. Noctuelles (Night Moths)
2. Oiseaux Tristes (Sad Birds)
3. Une Barque sur l’Ocean (A Boat on the Ocean)
4. Alborada del Gracioso (The Spanish Court Jester’s Aubade)
5. La Vallée des Cloches (The Valley of Bells)

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