Miroirs was composed from 1904 to 1905. Ricardo Viñes first performed the work in 1906. Une barque sur l'océan and Alborada del Gracioso were later orchestrated by Ravel. Much of the suite is considered quite difficult, but less so than Gaspard de la nuit. Each movement in this piece was intended to manifest the visual images and ambiences evoked when a certain person looked into the mirror. These people are those who received the dedications. With a further insight into the piece, it becomes vaguely apparent that the reflections are revealing parts of Ravel himself being projected onto these separate beings.
1. Noctuelles ("Night Moths"), dedicated to Léon-Paul Fargue. This piece begins with highly chromatic pianissimo scamperings across the keyboard. The calmer middle section makes use of chordal melodies and a pedal point; this is followed by a return to the introductory material. Curiously, despite the chromatic nature of the work, this recapitulation is a fifth below the first entry--exactly what one would expect from Bach or Mozart.
2. Oiseaux tristes ("Sad Birds"), dedicated to Ricardo Viñes. A lone bird sings its sad song at the beginning; other birds reluctantly join in. The wild and raucous middle section is offset by a slow, solemn cadenza, which returns the piece to the solitude and loneliness of the opening.
3. Une barque sur l'océan ("A boat on the Ocean"), dedicated to Paul Sordes (a painter and fellow member of the Apaches). This piece is based around a flowing F# minor/A major arpeggio, with simultaneous melodies in the upper and middle registers. The next section changes key abruptly (to B flat), and a muted climax is followed by one of the most striking passages in piano literature: a tremolo in the right hand is accompanied by a tremendous G# minor arpeggio in the left hand; when the two meet at fortissimo at the top of the register, they cascade back down the piano (at more than 20 consecutive notes per second). The central section of the piece is based around an ostinato in the extreme upper register containing only the notes F# and A; this forms the accompaniment for a Spanish melody. The accompaniment and melody become more insistent, until a fortississimo climax is reached. The tension slowly gives way, and the opening theme returns, providing the piece with a sense of calm and closure.
4. Alborada del gracioso ("The Comedian's Aubade"), dedicated to M. D. Calvocoressi [Provider of the text to Ravel's Cinq mélodies populaires grecques]. This piece is heavily influenced by Spanish themes, with the introductory chords reminiscent of guitars. The piece is marked by sharp dynamic and textural contrasts; it contains both stunning melodies and passages of considerable virtuosity. (The section of repeated notes is notorious as one of the more difficult passages in all piano music.)
5. La vallée des cloches ("The Valley of Bells"), dedicated to Maurice Delage [Ravel's first pupil]. It is believed that the inspiration of the piece lay in the sound of church bells, though it is unknown whether Ravel's "Valley" is Swiss or French. Ravel evokes many different bells throughout this piece; from the delicate bells of the opening to the quietly booming bells of the close. Some of Ravel's most striking melodies occur in this piece, often with lush harmonizations.
Complete recording by Therese Dussaut.
|2||Les oiseaux tristes||2:46||Dussaut, T.|
|3||Une Barque sur l'Ocean||6:16||Dussaut, T.|
|4||Alborada del Gracioso||6:32||Dussaut, T.|
|5||La vallée des cloches||4:32||Dussaut, T.|
Complete recording by Felipe Sarro
|2||Les oiseaux tristes||4:06|
|3||Une Barque sur l'Ocean||7:09|
|4||Alborada del Gracioso||6:12|
|5||La vallée des cloches||5:36|
Complete recording by Ken Sasaki.
|2||Les oiseaux tristes||3:08||Sasaki, K.|
|3||Une Barque sur l'Ocean||5:28||Sasaki, K.|
|4||Alborada del Gracioso||5:24||Sasaki, K.|
|5||La vallée des cloches||4:34||Sasaki, K.|
|2||Les oiseaux tristes||4:00||Sinadinovic, D.|
|3||Une Barque sur l'Ocean||6:44||Griner, D.|
|3||Une Barque sur l'Ocean||6:23||Sinadinovic, D.|
|4||Alborada del Gracioso||6:20||Sinadinovic, D.|