Suite No.2 "Daphnis et Chloé"

Maurice Ravel spent three years working on the score of Daphnis and Chloé, a commission for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. He completed it in 1912 and premiered it at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on 8 June of that year, conducted by Pierre Montiau. The choreography was entrusted to Mikhail Fokine, the leading roles were played by Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina, the sets and costumes were by Leon Bakst. It was a pallid success, but Stravinsky, usually short on praise, remarked, “This is not only Ravel’s finest work, but also one of the most beautiful ‘products’ of all French music.” Fokine initiated the stage adaptation of the ancient Greek mythic story told in Long’s second-century AD bucolic novel. “I was delighted that a musician of such talent would write music for my ballet,” recalls the choreographer, “I felt immediately that it would be unusual, colourful and, most importantly, what I sincerely wanted – completely different from any ballet music.” Of their work together, Ravel says, “I had a crazy week preparing the operatic libretto. I worked until 3 a.m. almost every night. What complicates things is that Fokine doesn’t know a word of French and I only know how to swear in Russian. Despite the translators, you can imagine the flavor of these meetings.” The composer calls “Daphnis et Chloé” not a ballet but a “choreographic symphony.” He explained, “My intention was to write a huge musical fresco in which I wanted not so much to recreate true antiquity, but to reproduce the Hellas of my dreams, similar to what French artists imagined and painted at the end of the 18th century.”   Ravel incorporates some elements of Greek art into the musical fabric: Lydian chords, uneven meters, intonations from Greek songs, exotic instruments such as the aeoliphone (a wind machine that resembles the ancient Greek aeolian harp) and small cymbals, and a choir that sings vocals without words.

Two threads intertwine in the storyline – the awakening of love in the protagonists Daphnis and Chloë. These two children, abandoned by their parents, are adopted by shepherds. They’ve been together since they were young, but don’t yet know passion. The second storyline is the trials they must overcome – Darkon’s attempt to kidnap Chloë, her abduction by pirates, the temptress Lickyon who wants to seduce Daphnis. The composer masterfully uses a system of leitmotifs: of love, of obstacles, of mysterious divine powers. With the sonic brushwork of a subtle impressionist painter, he conveys the emotional states of tender trepidation, despair, longing, impulse, and love through astonishing timbral finds and coloristic combinations. Despite its vivid symphonic quality, Ravel’s music is dance-like and plastic.

After Diaghilev lost interest in presenting Daphnis et Chloë on other stages, the composer composed two orchestral suites from the more important episodes in the ballet. The first in 1911, the second in 1912. The Second Suite was more popular, incorporating the third movement of the choreographic symphony in its entirety.  It begins with “Lever de jour” (“Dawn”) – murmuring brooks, bird songs, brightening sunbeams merge with the whistling of shepherds. The theme of love signifies her happy rescue by the god Pan. ‘Pantomime’ (‘Pantomime’) follows – Daphnis and Chloë portray the story of Pan and Syrinx. The nymph rejects the lovelorn god and disappears into the reeds. Desperate, he turns them into a flute on which he plays a melancholy melody. In the dance Chloe falls into the arms of her lover. “Danse générale” (“General Dance”) – all the characters join in the wahcanalia. The merriment glorifies love. Here Ravel makes inventive use of five-time rhythmic meter. Eyewitnesses tell how the dancers of the Russian ballet company had difficulty with this rhythm. The only way to keep it right was to repeat incessantly the mantra suggested to them jokingly by the composer: “Ser-gay Dia-ghi-lev”…

Past events

Какво търсиш днес?

Search in our website...