Mother Goose Suite

Experience a magical world of stories with Maurice Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite.

The power of music brings this enchanting storybook to life in five movements, each miniature a musical representation of childlike wonder. Ravel showcases the stories of Sleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb, Laidronette, Empress of the Pagodas and Beauty and the Beast, and concludes his suite with a musical depiction of a Fairy Garden. This suite is a prime example of the way art inspires art, as Ravel wove the threads of these well-known tales into a children’s piano duet before orchestrating the work for chamber orchestra and then finally expanding it into a ballet.

Movement One, “Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty”

The first movement, “Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty,” is slow, a procession of mourning for Sleeping Beauty. The original piano version was a simple piece, but in the orchestral version, Ravel uses this simplicity to create a very delicate and moving scene. Ravel casts a musical spell that mirrors the enchanting tale of a slumbering princess, but with a musical cliffhanger - the movement ends before Sleeping Beauty wakes.

Movement Two, “Tom Thumb”

Next, “Tom Thumb,” a tiny hero with a big heart, is depicted by playful melodies and lively rhythms. Tom Thumb leaves a trail of breadcrumbs to find his way back through the forest, but the birds eat the crumbs, leaving Tom lost. Ravel's music has a limping rhythm, imitating Tom Thumb wandering around in circles in the forest.

Video coming at future date.

Movement Three, “Laidronette, Empress of the Pagodas”

“Laidronette, Empress of the Pagodas” is a march that takes us on a journey to the Far East with its use of unusual instruments and harmonies and its mysterious atmosphere. Little statues on pagodas come to life and play music as their Empress enters the water to bathe. The music is dazzling and glorious, full of Eastern sounds and exciting colors.

Video coming at future date.

Movement Four, “Beauty and the Beast”

“Beauty and the Beast” is a waltz that tells the story of love and transformation through a rich and emotional musical landscape. Represented by the graceful clarinet and the growling contrabassoon, the two get to know each other and eventually, Beauty sees through the Beast’s horrible appearance to his kindness and courage. At the end, we hear the Beast transform back into a handsome prince.

Video coming at future date.

Movement Five, “Fairy Garden”

“Fairy Garden” concludes the suite - a slow, mesmerizing happy ending where we find ourselves in a magical realm of wonder and beauty. The orchestral version is much more powerful than the original piano duet, with Ravel finally giving the string section the main sweeping and flowering melody. Here, we finally hear the conclusion to Sleeping Beauty’s story – she is awoken by her prince’s kiss.

Video coming at future date.

The world of fairy tales and music can come together to create something truly special. As you listen to Ravel's Mother Goose Suite, let your imagination soar and immerse your senses in beautiful musical stories that enchant and captivate.

Please note: Portions of this presentation were filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Safety protocols were in place at the time.

Production of the New Jersey Symphony’s digital performances is made possible by the Digital Production and Programming Fund with major support from Ellen and Phil Neches.