Monday, July 12, 2010

Sexy Ravel

Nahandove is a haunting song of anticipation and sexual fulfillment inspired by a woman whose name is called over and over again in the text of this song written by Maurice Ravel. Completed in 1926, it is the first of three songs called "Chansons Madécasses."

Wolfgang Rupert Muhr and Christian Haake, who were students at the University for Music & Performing Arts in Vienna at the time, collaborated to create this evocative videoclip of Ravel's Nahandove. The mezzo-soprano is Maren Engelhardt.


"Nahandove, ô belle Nahandove!" An echoing refrain on a moonlit evening. The nightbird has started to cry and the moon shines. [0:41] "Voici l'heure:" cries the poet "qui peut t'arrêter, (Now is the time: who can be delaying you?)

The musical texture, for voice and cello alone, is aural cotton candy. It prolongs a chord stacked in thirds (ACEGBD) with tones that rub against in gentle frictions created by fourths.

In the second stanza [0:57] a bed of leaves, "strewn with flowers and scented herbs, worthy of your charms," is prepared by the poet. The film is less literal with images of nature contrasting images of the city--the motion of herons balanced by the motion of people.

Excitement [1:27]. "Elle vient" (She is coming). The poet recognizes the sound of her walk, the rustle of her skirt. The music shifts fields as the piano enters. Tritones and syncopation. The flute is revealed at last: this is the ensemble.

"Catch your breath, my young love," [2:07] "Rest on my lap. Your gaze is enchanting. How delightful the motion of your breast as my hand presses. You smile, Nahandove, by beautiful Nahandove."

The music becomes modal again but moves with gentle and directed motion toward G major [2:38]. This chord, the E major chord [2:49] and the A major chords [2:58] are sweet as watermelon.

A new field in F-sharp major [3:02]. "Your kisses penetrate my soul, your caresses burn. Stop, or I will die, if one can die from voluptuousness." The film counterpoints with playfulness, rides, amusements, motion, fun.

[3:30] In D-sharp minor with images of flying: "Pleasure passes like lightening. Your breath weakens, your eyes close, your head leans, rapture fades to weariness. [4:10] Never were you so beautiful."

Rounding in A major with colorful D-sharps [4:40]: "Now you are leaving, and I will languish in regrets and desires until tonight when you return, Nahandove, ô belle Nahandove!"

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