Maurice Ravel composed Introduction et Allegro for harp, flute, clarinet, and string quartet in 1905 in “eight days of relentless work and three sleepless nights”. The work was commissioned by the Érard company, an established manufacturer of pianos, grand pianos and harps. Ravel’s composition was intended to prove in the scope of a clever marketing strategy that the pedal harp patented by Érard already in 1810 was superior to a more modern chromatic instrument from the competing establishment, Pleyel. Ravel responded to this challenge by creating a one-movement chamber music harp concerto en miniature which exploits all the instrument’s technical possibilities.
15 years later, Ravel got to work on a four-movement sonata for violin and cello; he dedicated the first movement to the memory of his composer colleague Claude Debussy, who had died in 1918. Debussy’s string quartet, composed in 1893, had inspired Ravel in 1902/03 to himself compose a contribution to the chamber music discipline par excellence – the string quartet – the ingenuity of which Debussy ungrudgingly acknowledged. Between 1903 and 1905, Ravel composed the Sonatina for piano, structured in a classicist way; it will be played at this concert in a trio version for flute, viola and harp arranged by the French harpist and composer Carlos Salzedo. It is unjustly overshadowed by Ravel’s piano cycle Miroirs, composed in about the same period; it does in fact enhance the image of its creator’s versatility by adding a number of fascinating facets.
This evening, dedicated solely to chamber music by Maurice Ravel, will be performed only by members of the Berliner Philharmoniker. Without forming a permanent ensemble, the six musicians and the harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet have come together exclusively for this homage to the French composer.