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16 min

Flavio~ CC BY 2.0

(#9 from Laney’s List)

Ifirst knew Ravel as the tightly-wound precisionist of Le Tombeauthen I heard this flaming swordfight of a piece.

He grew up in Basque country, 10 miles from Spain, and it shows here. “Alborada del Gracioso” (Morning Love Song of the Jester) started as a movement from a piano suite, but there’s no way a symphonic Jedi like Ravel was going to resist throwing this one to the orchestra.

I heard the orchestral version of “Alborada” first, and it took the top of my head off. For years it was my favorite piece by my favorite composer. Then I heard it had been written first for piano. This was like saying the rooftop dance scene from West Side Story was originally for finger puppets and slide whistle. Uh, no offense to the piano, somehow.

Then I heard the piano version, and it took me an hour to even FIND the top of my head.

Last time I started with the piano version of Tombeau, then orchestra. I’ll flip the script for this one. Note the triple-tonguing trumpet/horn/flute at 1:12-1:30, which (FYI) is not actually possible, then compare to the same impossible spot for piano.

RAVEL, “Alborada del Gracioso” from Miroirs (orch, 7:43)

[arve url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paDKkCEWx1g” /]

Now put the genie back in the bottle. This performance is insane. Listen through 1:30 at least, just to hear what human fingers can evidently do.

RAVEL, “Alborada del Gracioso” from Miroirs (piano, 6:22)

[arve url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vykux_ms-P4″ /]

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1 Chopin | 2 Scarlatti | 3 Hildegard | 4 Bach | 5 Chopin | 6 Reich | 7 Delibes | 8 Ravel | 9 Ravel | 10 Boulanger | 11 Debussy | 12 GinasteraFull list YouTube playlist

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.