Who was Marius Constant? I’m going to be quick because I’d like to especially show you how he orchestrated. Marius Constant arrived in Paris in 1946 to study at the Conservatory with Olivier Messiaen, Arthur Honegger and Nadia Boulanger. He was musical director of dance at the Paris Opera, he was professor of orchestration at the Paris Conservatory… And… in 1954, when the poet Jean Tardieu had the very poetic idea of a cultural radio dedicated to music, Marius Constant was part of the founding team and became director, from 1954 to 1969, of this radio station that is our home, France Musique. France Musique, which was born from the idea of a poet…
He wants to show us how Marius Constant works. Well, that’s mainly why I’m talking about Marius Constant today. You know, Gabrielle: I love the orchestra, and I love the fact of adapting a score and putting it for orchestra…. what is called orchestration. How do you go from a single instrument… to a whole orchestra? So I played around with synthetic sounds at home to help you understand in a handful of bars how Marius Constant orchestrated Gaspard of the night, by Maurice Ravel. Here is the original phrase on the piano. Notice how it splits between brilliance on one side and melody on the other.
- Excerpt 1 – undine at the piano (Maurice Ravel)
How to reproduce this sparkle with the orchestra? Marius Constant entrusts it to the celesta.
- Extract 2 – Synthetic Celesta
And to give it more body, to this tremor, he adds flute and violins.
- Excerpt 3 – Celesta, flute and violins
So much for the thrill. But the theme? Marius Constant does like Ravel and puts it at the height of the tremor, giving it to the flute, oboe, clarinet and violins II.
- Excerpt 4 – Theme played by flute, oboe, clarinet and violins 2
And this is where it gets interesting. Marius Constant decides to change the color of the second part of the theme. He adds more bass to the melody, and to that, he adds the harp.
- Excerpt 5 – Second part of the harp theme
And it changes the tremor a bit: it gives a more important role to the celesta, in unison with the violins.
- Excerpt 6 – Celesta and violins
Here, I am well aware that computer manipulated sounds are not optimal listening comfort. Therefore, I propose to listen to what happens in real life: first by a real pianist, and then by a real orchestra. Listen carefully, watch as Marius Constant plays the twinkle of the piano in the orchestra, and then see how he decides to change colors in the middle of the sentence.
- Excerpt 7 – Montage of the same phrase played on the piano and then by the orchestra