Cinq mélodies populaires grecques
In this masterclass for vocals, Professor François Le Roux and student Léa Bellili work together on the Cinq mélodies populaires grecques by French composer Maurice Ravel.
Firstly, Le Roux instructs his student to pay close attention to the contrasting perspectives in each of the five movements in this piece, and to know who is speaking and what is the context of each melody. Bellili is told to sing the piece in a joyful, dancing, folkloric style, as well as familiarize herself with the original Greek version. Le Roux advises her to avoid being too rigid and 'play rounder' as it is a Mediterranean, ‘familial type of piece’.
Differentiating between the different voices and perspectives in the piece.
Avoid being too linear and strict.
Evoking the folkloric, dancing style of the music.
Getting acquainted with the original Greek version of the text.
Avoid dropping the end of the phrases and paying attention to the diction.
Maurice Ravel’s Cinq mélodies populaires grecques are part of his traditional Greek chants' compilation. They were harmonized by the French composer between 1904 and 1906, based on anonymous Greek texts, and translated by Franco-British writer Michel Dimitri Calvocoressi. The five melodies are as follows: Chanson de la mariée ; Là-bas, vers l’église ; Quel galant m’est comparable; Chanson des cueilleuses de lentisques, and Tout gai!
This oeuvre marks the debut of Ravel’s musical career renewal through ‘exoticism’, which was fashionable at the turn of the 20th century.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this voice masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to François Le Roux’s feedback and comments.
He has been awarded the grade of "Chevalier" in the French National Order of Les Arts et Lettres in 1996.
François Le Roux began studying vocals with François Loup, now a teacher at Peabody-Baltimore, at the age of nineteen. Later, he continued to study under Vera Rosza and Elisabeth Grümmer at the Opéra Studio, Paris.
A member of the Lyon Opera Company from 1980 to 1985, he has since been a guest at all the major European opera houses and festivals, as well as renowned American opera venues: Santa Fé (NM), Los Angeles Opera, New Orleans Opera, and Colon Buenos Aires (Argentina). His operatic repertoire is immense, from Monteverdi to David Lang. Named “Mr. Mélodie” by American critics, François Le Roux gives numerous recitals accompanied by such renowned names as Graham Johnson, Roger Vignoles, Christian Ivaldi, Olivier Godin, and Jeff Cohen. He conducts masterclasses dedicated to the interpretation of French songs and recital repertoire around the world: Orford and Lachine Academy (Québec, Canada), Vancouver (BC, Canada), Minneapolis Song Source Festival (USA), Sibelius Academy Helsinki (Finland), Kyoto Société Mélodie Française (Japan), Central Conservatory of Music Beijing (China), Association Mélodie Française (Seoul, South Korea), and the Académie Ravel de Saint-Jean-de-Luz (France).
Moreover, he is the Artistic Director and Founder of the Académie Francis Poulenc Tours, where every year since 1997, students have the opportunity to learn the interpretation of French Song. What’s more, Le Roux organized the “French Song Concert Seasons” of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris between 1997 and 2002.
He has been awarded the grade of “Chevalier” in the French National Order of “Les Arts et Lettres” in 1996, and was selected as "Musical Personality of the Year, 1997" by the French Critics Union. He has been a vocal teacher at the National Music Conservatoire in Paris (CNSMDP), and is now teaching at the Ecole normale de Musique de Paris Alfred Cortot, where he is developing the exclusive French Vocal Art Certificate.
French composer Maurice Ravel was born in the French southwestern town of Ciboure in 1875. His parents moved to Paris shortly after his birth, and by age seven, Ravel began piano lessons. Five years later, at age twelve, he started composing. He was then admitted to the Conservatoire de Paris as a piano student, but was a very average student; he preferred composition. After graduating from the Conservatoire, he pursued his love for composition and was re-admitted to the prestigious musical institute, studying composition under Fauré.
In the 1900s, he adapted many of his piano compositions into orchestral works before WWI broke out in Europe. Ravel wanted to join, but was too old, and his health was not optimal. He nonetheless succeeded in being enlisted in 1915 as a lorry driver. The war changed him, like many soldiers who struggled to return to “normal” life. The 1920s were prolific for Ravel, as he composed many of his most famous pieces during that time. By the 1930s, he turned his attention to piano concertos.
Unfortunately, Ravel was in a traumatic taxi accident in 1932, which was not treated seriously, but seems to have precipitated an underlying cerebral condition. As his mental health deteriorated and the pain grew, he struggled to work and meet deadlines. In 1937, he had surgery to try and relieve some symptoms, but it only had temporary results, as he slipped into a coma soon after and died that same year at age 62.
Ravel's works list eighty-five works, including many incomplete or abandoned pieces. Among his most successful oeuvres are Boléro, Daphnis et Chloé, Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte, La Valse, Rhapsodie Espagnole, Gaspard de la nuit, Piano Concerto in G Major and Miroirs. He never married or had children and remained very private about his personal life, sparkling many rumors still unverified to this day. He is considered one of the most influential music figures of the 20th century, along with Debussy and Stravinsky.
Photo credit: BNF