Tzigane (10:13)

Cover of Stravinsky, I.: Duo Concertante  / Ravel, M.: Violin Sonata

From Stravinsky, I.: Duo Concertante / Ravel, M.: Violin Sonata and 49 other releases

Tzigane is a rhapsodic composition by the French composer Maurice Ravel. It was commissioned by and dedicated to Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi, great-niece of the influential violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim. The original instrumentation was for violin with accompaniment by luthéal. The first performance took place in London on April 26, 1924 with the dedicatee on violin and with Henri Gil-Marchex at the luthéal.

The luthéal was, in Ravel’s day, a comparatively new piano-like instrument that had several tone-colour (not exclusively “pitch”) registers that could be engaged by pulling stops above the keyboard. One of these registers had a cimbalom-like sound, which fitted well with the gypsy-esque idea of the composition. The printed version of the original score of the Tzigane piece contained instructions for these register-changes during execution. The luthéal, however, never really made it as a fashionable music instrument. By the end of the 20th century the first print of the accompaniment with luthéal was still available at the publishers, but by that time the chamber music version of the piece relied on the piano as accompanying instrument. In this sense Tzigane is comparable to Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata: that piece was also written in order to promote an uncommon instrument, and when the composition proved more popular than the instrument a few years later, execution shifted to a more common instrument (cello in Schubert’s case).

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