Publication Date

April 2016


Ronald Ebrecht




English (United States)


Many recent investigations concerning the music of Maurice Ravel have invariably resulted in attempts to unmask the enigmatic figure behind the music. While this research has been incredibly fruitful, the desire to uncover more about this mysterious individual may distract us from a rigorous analysis of his ingenious music itself. L’enfant et les sortileges represents some of Ravel’s most adventurous work and contains some of his boldest harmonic experiments. The harmonic perplexities of L’enfant et les sortileges do not lend themselves to singular unequivocal analyses; many passages of the opera present harmonic ambiguities that can be interpreted as one or more of: 1) rich chromaticism within the tonal tradition, typical of Ravel’s early work; 2) polyscalar superimposition, typical of Les Six and other younger contemporaries of Ravel; 3) melodic inflections, or blue notes, typical of the jazz tradition. Some passages in the opera only ascribe themselves to one of the three possibilities, while others combine the multiple methods in differing ways. Conclusively, Ravel’s unusual dissonances do not replace tonal harmonic relationships within the opera; instead, Ravel merely creates the illusion that the harmonic content is non-functional or non-tonal.



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