Orchestration: choir: SATB – 3(2picc).A-fl.2.cor ang.Eb-clar.2.B-clar.3.dble bsn – 18.104.22.168 – timp.perc(8) – 2hp.cel – str.
Daphnis et Chloé “is certainly not only one of Ravel’s best works, but also one of French music’s most beautiful creations,” thus, Stravinsky’s view of this ballet in his memoirs, published in 1935. Composing the work, commissioned by the Ballets Russes, turned out to be problematic, involving linguistic differences and remuneration disagreements that dragged on among the choreographer, impresario, and composer. Too few rehearsals, a difficult choreography, tricky 5/4-meter, and other “oddities” in the music probably led, ultimately, to a subdued reception of the work at its Paris premiere in 1912. Only a later production with costumes and set by Chagall significantly contributed to the ballet’s success.
Today the work is a monument to Impressionist orchestration, incorporating the narration within the sound material. Each instrument is treated in the most effective way possible. Remarkable are the strings’ extreme divisi, their harmonics’ glissandi, and other enigmatic effects, such as utilizing a wordless chorus. Individual performances without choir likely go back to a “makeshift arrangement” that Ravel produced “to facilitate performance at less prominent venues.” The appendix to the Urtext edition includes this alternative version.
The Ravel specialist Jean-Francois Monnard has also edited this ballet with detailed attention to the customary Urtext standard. The preface and critical report include numerous references to both genesis and performance history as well as interpretation, correcting also previously handed-down errors. The large format of the conductor’s score and orchestral parts are easy to read and support the clarity and transparency of the modern notation without any loss to the magic of Ravel’s music.