Skip to page content


Composed: 1908; 1910

Length: c. 30 minutes

Orchestration: 2 flutes (2nd=piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd=English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons (2nd=contrabassoon), 2 horns, timpani, percussion (bass drum, cymbals, glockenspiel, tam-tam, triangle, xylophone), harp, celesta, and strings

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: March 6, 1927, Walter Henry Rothwell conducting

About this Piece

The phenomenal success of Ravel’s “greatest hits” (especially the almost notorious Boléro) may blind us to the subtleties of his most enchanting works. The refinement of the orchestral textures Ravel utilizes in this suite is an endless source of wonderment. After the moody opening “Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty,” we are transported to the forest where Tom Thumb’s trail of crumbs is the victim of various songbirds. A colorful and exotic depiction of things Chinese follows, as “Laideronette, Empress of the Pagodas” bathes while being entertained with musical walnut-shells and almond-shells. Then comes “Conversations of Beauty and the Beast,” which British writer Gerald Larner described as “Ravel’s first-ever love scene.” This is no Disneyfied Beauty and the Beast, though, and the transformation of the Beast leads to a hymn-like but eventually ecstatic celebration of nature in “The Enchanted Garden.” The radiant orchestration is quintessential Ravel.

—Dennis Bade