Ravel’s Sonatine

Sonatine, Mvt. 1 Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

“Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Jehovah”


In 1903 Ravel wrote the first movement of the Sonatine for a competition sponsored by the Weekly Critical Review magazine after being encouraged by a close friend who was a contributor to that publication. The competition requirement was the composition of the first movement of a piano sonatina no longer than 75 bars, with the prize being 100 francs. Ravel was the only entrant. His Sonatine was disqualified, however, for being seven bars too long. The competition was ultimately cancelled, but the piece still paid off for Ravel in the end: he added two more movements, and his Sonatine became one of his most popular piano pieces; as a result one of the largest music publishers of the day signed an exclusive and a generous contract with Ravel for an annual salary of 12,000 Francs (about $12000 in 1903 dollars — a very comfy income for that day), plus royalties.