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Composed: 1895

Length: c. 6 minutes

Orchestration: 3 flutes (3rd = piccolo), 3 oboes (3rd = English horn), 3 clarinets (3rd = bass clarinet), 3 bassoons (3rd = contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, harp, and strings

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: November 12, 2021

About this Piece

Ravel was 20 and still a student at the Paris Conservatory when he wrote his Menuet antique for solo piano. His friend Ricardo Viñes played the premiere in 1898 (when it also became Ravel’s first published work), but the composer subsequently performed it often himself, and he orchestrated it in 1929.

A modest piece in A-B-A form, this little dance is nonetheless remarkably prophetic of its composer’s mature style, and Ravel echoed its modal “antique” spirit in four subsequent minuets, including the one in the Tombeau de Couperin. Despite its “Majestueusement” marking, the syncopated framing section seems sprightlier and more vivacious than “majestic,” but the gentle center of this musical confection is every bit as sweet as Ravel’s “Doux” suggests.

—John Henken