MAURICE RAVEL Introduction and Allegro for Harp, String Quartet, Flute, and Clarinet Pleyel vs. Érard. This rivalry was the talk of Paris’ music scene in 1904. Upon the invention of the chromatic harp, the Pleyel company, a Parisian manufacturer of pianos and harps, reached out to famed composer Claude Debussy to write a piece to showcase their new achievement. The instrument he was tasked with writing for was unlike previous harps in that it had no pedals. Conventional harps of the time were made with seven pedals, one for each upper or lower accidental in the diatonic scale; Pleyel’s chromatic harp did away with them all together in favor of more strings. Each string now had a specific note assigned to it much like a piano, creating two rows of strings comparable to the relationship between white and black keys. The resulting composition was his Danse sacrée et danse profane, written for harp and orchestra. Though Debussy’s work was well received, and still exists in the repertoire today, the chromatic harp would go extinct soon after the Érard company fired back with its own instrument. The double-action pedal harp was the newest model at the Érard company, retaining its seven pedals and featuring the newest mechanics the instrument could offer. Like Pleyel with Debussy, the Érard company commissioned Maurice Ravel to write a piece that featured their instrument and all of the technical possibilities it offered to a composer. He then began work on his Introduction and Allegro. Scored for harp, flute, clarinet, and a string quartet, the forces used in this septet are meant to surround and support the harp, making the advertisement for Érard’s instrument even more enticing.
CLAUDE-PAUL TAFFANEL Wind Quintet in G Minor The Wind Quintet in G Minor is of the few great romantic works for this type of ensemble, and yet it’s unlikely that most people have heard of Paul Taffanel beyond this piece. Often, one encounters works by an otherwise-unknown composer that have become standard repertoire simply because they fill a gap. But if this wind quintet fills a gap in the genre, perhaps that’s precisely what Taffanel intended.