Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto in G

Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G was always intended to be a frivolous work. In contrast to many of the concertos of his day, what Ravel was aiming to write was something light, fanciful and not inherently serious: ‘In the spirit’, as he said, ‘of Mozart and Saint-Saëns’.

It certainly wasn’t composed in a throwaway manner, though. On the contrary, Ravel mulled over his ideas for the concerto for a full three years.

In 1928, the composer returned from his tour of America and visited Oxford, where he began to consider writing a piano concerto.

The process was rather stop–start: after the initial idea, it went on the back-burner in 1929, only for Ravel to then become distracted by the composition of his ingenious Piano Concerto for the Left Hand. In 1930, work on the G major concerto resumed again – but he didn’t finish it until 1931.

The light-hearted nature of the concerto is confirmed from the first sound we hear in the opening movement: a playful, percussive whip-crack. The work is jazz-tinged in the outer movements. In between, a slow movement of serene beauty confirms Ravel’s status as a master of melody. ‘That flowing phrase!’ he apparently commented. ‘How I worked over it bar by bar! It nearly killed me!’

Recommended Recording


Krystian Zimmerman (piano); London Symphony Orchestra; Pierre Boulez (conductor). Deutsche Grammophon:
 DG 4492132.

Illustration: Mark Millington

Classic FM Apps

Get the Classic FM app for iPhone, iPad and Android - now with HD audio

Cat composer Alexander Livitsanos

This utterly adorable kitten is the ultimate distraction from work

chocolate bar musical taste

Can we guess your favourite chocolate bar from your favourite composer?

broken e-string violin

This clip captures the sheer horror of an E-string snapping halfway through a live radio broadcast