Le Tombeau de Couperin

In this suite of dances in 18th-century court style, eight couples are divided into left and right quadrilles. (A quadrille is an 18th-century dance form originating with squadrons at tournaments; it is also referred to as a square dance.) The dancers form geometric patterns — diagonals, diamonds, squares — and dance in unison as well as mimick the movements of the opposing quadrille. “Tombeau” means “memorial” or “tomb.” In 1919, Ravel composed a commemorative suite for piano in six movements (prelude, fugue, forlane, minuet, rigaudon, and toccato) in memory of six friends who died in World War I. In 1920, the composer orchestrated the piece, eliminating the fugue and the toccato. Ravel honors 18th-century French music in general and the French Baroque composer François Couperin in particular; Couperin was court musician and composer to Louis XIV.

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was born in the French Basque town of Ciboure. His family moved to Paris and encouraged him to take piano lessons. At fourteen he was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire, where he studied with Fauré, who became his principal teacher of composition. His ballet scores include Pavane pour une Infante Défunte, Jeux d’Eau, Bolero, Daphnis and Chloé, Ma Mère L’Oye, and L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, a ballet-opera.

Repertory notes provided courtesy of and adapted from New York City Ballet Online Repertory Index. Additional sources: Choreography by George Balanchine: A Catalogue of Works, An Eakins Press Foundation Book, published by Viking (1984); and Repertory in Review: 40 Years of the New York City Ballet by Nancy Reynolds (1970; The Dial Press).  Photo credit: Photo © Paul Kolnik

 

tombeau[1]
Choreography:  George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust
Music:  Le Tombeau de Couperin
Composer:  Ravel, Maurice
Premiere:  1975
Average Length:  18 minutes
No. Dancers:  16