Ravel completed his Mother Goose Suite in 1910, dedicating it to Mimie and Jean Godebski, the young children of close friends. Ravel specifically composed the suite for children to play and wrote that, “The idea of evoking the poetry of childhood in these pieces naturally led me to simplify my style and to refine my means of expression.”
There are five movements beginning with ‘Sleeping Beauty’s Pavane’ which depicts the Princess’ slumber after she had pricked her finger on a spinning wheel needle and fallen into a deep sleep. The rest of the ballet depicts her dreams. In’ Tom Thumb’ Ravel uses numerous time changes to depict Tom’s meanderings, having got lost because birds had eaten his breadcrumb trail. ‘Little Miss Ugly Face Empress of the Pagodas’ has a distinctly oriental feel about it, using the pentatonic scale extensively. In ‘Conversations of Beauty and the Beast’ the Princess agrees to marry the beast, who duly turns into a handsome Prince. Finally, in the ‘Fairy Garden’, Prince Charming awakens the Princess with a kiss.
Originally for piano duet, Ravel later added to and orchestrated the suite as a ballet. With the combined forces of piano and wind quintet this arrangement offers real vibrancy, depth and richness in sonority and colour.