Histoires naturelles

Five songs by Ravel (written in 1906), to texts by Jules Renard (1864-1910). The unconventional word-setting proved controversial, and they received a rowdy first performance in 1907, given by Jane Bathori, with Ravel accompanying. The songs are:

I. Le paon [dedicated to Jane Bathori]
II. Le grillon [dedicated to Madeleine Picard]
III. Le cygne [dedicated to Mme Alfred Edwards (Misia Godebski)
IV. Le martin-pêcheur [dedicated to Émile Engel, the tenor who married Jane Bathori in 1908]
V. La pintade [dedicated to the composer Roger-Ducasse]

The text of the songs can be found on the Lied and Song Texts Page.

Jules Renard took little interest in the settings of his poems and didn't even want to hear the songs. "Un jour qu'il demandait à Ravel ce que la musique pouvait ajouter à ses poèmes, Ravel lui répondit: 'Mon dessein n'était pas d'y ajouter, mais d'interpreter... Dire avec de la musique ce que vous dites avec des mots.'" (Jourdan-Morhange, [1945], p.63).