Ma mère l'Oye

This article is about the Ravel composition. For Jerome Robbins' 1975 ballet to this music, see Mother Goose (ballet). For the collection of fairy tales, see Histoires ou contes du temps passé.

Ma mère l'Oye (Mother Goose; "Oye" is correctly capitalized, being a proper name) is a musical work by French composer Maurice Ravel.

Piano versions

Pavane de la Belle au bois dormant (1:38)
Piano duet performed in 1992 by le Duo Campion/Vachon

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Ravel originally wrote Ma mère l'Oye as a piano duet for the Godebski children, Mimi and Jean, ages 6 and 7. Ravel dedicated this work for four hands to the children (just as he had dedicated an earlier work, Sonatine, to their parents). Jeanne Leleu and Geneviève Durony premiered the work at the first concert of the Société Musicale Indépendante on 20 April 1910.

The piece was transcribed for solo piano by Ravel's friend Jacques Charlot the same year as it was published (1910); the first movement of Ravel's Le tombeau de Couperin was also dedicated to Charlot's memory after his death in World War I.

Both piano versions bear the subtitle "cinq pièces enfantines" (five children's pieces). The five "pieces" were as follows:

  • I. Pavane de la Belle au bois dormant
Pavane of Sleeping Beauty
  • II. Petit Poucet
Little Tom Thumb / Hop o' My Thumb
Très modéré
  • III. Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodes
Little Ugly Girl, Empress of the Pagodas
Mouvt de marche
  • IV. Les entretiens de la belle et de la bête
Conversation of Beauty and the Beast
Mouvt de valse très modéré
  • V. Le jardin féerique
The Fairy Garden
Lent et grave

On several of the scores, Ravel included quotes to indicate clearly what he was trying to invoke. For example, for the second "piece":

"Il croyait trouver aisément son chemin par le moyen de son pain qu'il avait semé partout où il avait passé; mais il fut bien surpris lorsqu'il ne put retrouver une seule miette: les oiseaux étaient venus qui avaient tout mangé. (Ch. Perrault)"
["He believed he'd easily find his way because of the bread that he'd strewn all along his path; but he was very surprised to find not a single crumb: the birds had come and eaten everything." (Charles Perrault)]
Quartal harmony in "Laideronnette" from Ravel's Ma mère l'Oye. The top line uses the pentatonic scale.[1]  Play 

Sleeping Beauty and Little Tom Thumb were based on the tales of Charles Perrault, while Little Ugly Girl, Empress of the Pagodas was inspired by a tale (The Green Serpent) by Perrault's "rival" Madame d'Aulnoy. In this movement, Ravel takes advantage of the pentatonic scale. Beauty and the Beast is based upon the version of Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont. The origin of The Fairy Garden is not entirely known, although the ballet version interprets this as Sleeping Beauty being awakened in the garden by her prince.[2] The "Mouvt de marche" of Little Ugly Girl uses quartal harmony:

Orchestrated work

In 1911 Ravel orchestrated the five-piece suite, and in this form it is most frequently heard today.

Later the same year he also expanded it into a ballet, separating the five initial pieces with four new interludes and adding two movements at the start, Prélude and Danse du rouet et scène. The ballet premiered on 29 January 1912 at the Théâtre des Arts in Paris.[3] The eleven numbers are:

  • I. Prélude
Très lent
  • II. Premier tableau - Danse du rouet et scène
Spinning Wheel Dance and Scene
  • III. Deuxième tableau - Pavane de la belle au bois dormant
  • IV. Interlude
  • V. Troisième tableau - Les entretiens de la belle et de la bête
  • VI. Interlude
  • VII. Quatrième tableau - Petit Poucet
  • VIII. Interlude
  • IX. Cinquième tableau - Laideronnette, impératrice des Pagodes
  • X. Interlude
  • XI. Sixième tableau - Le jardin féerique


Ma mère l'Oye was scored for the following orchestra:

Electronic Versions

On his 1980 album Bolero Japanese synthesizer artist Isao Tomita recorded the five movements of the piano version.

On his 1974 LP So What American guitarist Joe Walsh recorded the first piano movement, which he simply titled "Pavanne", on the synthesizer.


  1. Benward & Saker (2003). Music: In Theory and Practice, Vol. I, p.37. Seventh Edition. ISBN 978-0-07-294262-0.
  3. Concert Booklet of HKPO by Marc Rochester

External links

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