Ravel's "Tzigane" (1924) + Paris

June 5, 2017, 12:45 PM · Ravel's "Tzigane" is definitely a favorite in the violin world - for me, it combines my favorite composer and my favorite instrument! It's a wonderful piece and it's fun to noodle through a few passage of it myself (playing for a bit today inspired me to write this). Below are a few recordings of the piece:

David Oistrakh

Joshua Bell

Maxim Vengerov


A neat anecdote from a 1922 private music concert in London shows Ravel's initial idea for the piece. Hungarian violinist Jelly d'Aranyi was playing Ravel's Sonata for Violin and Cello, and later in the evening, Ravel asked her to play some gypsy melodies. He kept asking for more melodies, and they continued until close to 5am. This evening sparked the initial inspiration for the piece.

Curiously, Ravel himself doesn't mention this piece in great detail like some of his other works in his letters (examples from A Ravel Reader by Arbie Orenstein). On March 13, 1924, he wrote a letter to the famous violinist Jelly d'Aranyi (whom he dedicated this piece to) asking her to come to Paris to play virtuosic passages from the piece to test playability. (The premiere was given in London.)

There are a lot of really cool tidbits about this piece. For starters, the accompaniment part was for the piano luthéal, a special attachment to the piano that did not age well; however, Ravel was interested in colour, proved by his beautiful orchestrations, and was attracted by an instrument that didn't sound so distinct and obvious as the piano. (Ravel's opera L'enfant et les Sortilèges was one of the last works to use the instrument.) Also, there are only three instruments left today!

A video on the instrument

Here are a couple videos as well by the Philharmonia of a performer's perspective on the piece. I think it's very enlightening when she tells the stories she comes up with that come out of it, and how that helps her approach it.
Performer's Perspective (1)


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