Music in the Making

Music in the Making: Global Influences

Featuring works by two Frenchmen that drew their inspiration from across the world.


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On this week’s episode of Music in the Making, we feature two French compositions inspired by music on different continents, featuring American blues and Chinese folkloric music.

Photograph of Ravel composing at the piano
Smoke ’em if you got ’em: Photograph of Ravel composing at the piano

Maurice Ravel – Violin Sonata No. 2 (1927)
Cho-Liang Lin, violin; Jon Kimura Parker, piano
Duncan Recital Hall

Though it was written in France, our first selection tonight was inspired by St. Louis. To be exact, it was inspired by the famous St. Louis blues style that flourished in the first half of the twentieth century. Ravel was first exposed to this style when he saw popular blues artist WC Handy perform in Paris. This inspired him to include these new American harmonies and rhythms into his compositions. Perhaps the best example of this is his second sonata for violin and piano. Pay attention to the second movement, as it is directly titled “Blues moderato”.


Ernest Chausson – Quartet for Piano and Strings in A Minor, Op. 30 (1897)
Kyung Sun Lee, violin; Wayne Brooks, viola; Brinton Smith, cello; Timothy Hester, piano
Moores Opera House

Most of you may know Chausson for his lush harmonies and colors, such as his writing in his most famous work, Poème. In this composition, like many others, he draws inspiration from Wagner, Franck and Debussy. However, in our final selection, Chausson looks to traditional music in China for a new set of ideas. Listen carefully as Chausson tries to incorporate this theme throughout the piece. Most noticeably, listen to the plucking sound in the opening movement; this is meant to mimic a Chinese harp playing a theme in the pentatonic scale.

This episode originally aired Sunday, January 31st, 2016. Catch Music in the Making every Sunday at 7:06 PM on Classical 91.7.