From the very beginning there has been a discrepancy between the score and the flute part in the opening notes of the famous flute solo in Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe.
The ascending scale which launches the beautiful solo begins as follows:
A, B, C#, D, E-sharp, F# G#, A, G#
but in the score it reads:
A, B, C#, D, E-natural, F# G#, A, G#
For decades, the two scales have co-existed in performance, with some flutists choosing to follow the score, some, the part.
Adding to the confusion, a new edition of Daphnis appeared circa early 90’s . Far from bringing the flute part into agreement with the score, there appeared there a 3rd permutation of the scale, this time with a D#:
A, B, C#, D#, E#, F#, G#, A, G#
So which scale is right? Scale 1, 2 or 3?
Wouldn’t it be nice to know what the composer intended? In fact, we do.
Someone asked Ravel, and that conversation was passed down, in that way we treasure in the study of our art form, from teacher to student. Flutist George Laurent, of the Boston Symphony, had the opportunity to ask the composer himself about the discrepancy (sometime before the composer’s death in 1937.)
Laurent received this answer: the E-natural of the score is what Ravel wrote. Laurent relayed this information about the E-natural to his student Bob Willoughby (in the late 40’s) and in kind, Bob Willoughby tells his own students.
In spite of the existence of reliable word-of-mouth—I’ve heard of a similar path via Marcel Moyse) it seems as though most flutists these days are playing the E#. People either don’t know about the story or choose to disregard it, and in any case have gotten totally used to hearing it played that way.
It’s my own guess is that people are really hooked on the exotic flavor of the augmented 2nd jump from D to E#. It is, admittedly, a wonderfully groovy interval—and, as the daughter of a jazz musician and improviser, who am I to discourage anyone from enjoying it? What’s in a note? Why not even play it one way one time and a different way next the time?
But no, I can’t. I can’t enjoy playing or hearing the E#. I think there are clues in the music itself that go along with the eye-witness report. Namely, the total absence of augmented seconds in any of the Grecian-themed passages of the ballet. Scalar passages abound in the music and they all have a modal quality to them.
That’s my feeling on the matter of one little note. What’s yours? Do you have a Daphnis story of your own to share? Please contact me or submit a comment!