Astonishingly, the Trois Chansons were the only piece of a cappella choral music that Ravel ever published. He wrote them whilst waiting to be enlisted in the army in 1914–15, and later transcribed them for solo voice and piano (the version which this arrangement is based on). Set to the composer’s own texts, these are not really mélodies, but are written in the folk style of the chanson. Nevertheless, they contain a wealth of imaginative expression. The cheerful strophic verses of Nicolette use the same material to paint completely distinct pictures, as she flees from a wolf, dreamily falls for a handsome page, but then settles for a grotesque (but rich) old man. Trois Beaux Oiseaux du paradis (‘Three beautiful birds of paradise’) provides a sombre contrast: with the refrain ‘my beloved is away at war’, it transforms a simple innocent melody into one of utter desolation, at the news of ‘a dear heart all crimson’. Ronde returns to a humorous care-free folk style, energetically nagging as the young people are warned, in a seemingly endless list, of terrifying creatures (‘goblins, korrigans, necromancers, and kobolds’) to be found in the dark depths of the forest.

Matthew Knight

Parts included:

  • Score
  • Trumpet in E-flat
  • Trumpet 1 in B-flat
  • Trumpet 2 in B-flat
  • Trombone 1
  • Trombone 2
  • Trombone 3 (Bass)
  • Tuba