The Fox and The Crow (Aesop) - Musical Versions

Musical Versions

Since the fable stands at the beginning of La Fontaine's fables, generations of French children commonly learned it by heart. This will explain the many settings by French composers. They include

  • Louis-Nicolas Clérambault
  • Jacques Offenbach in Six Fables de La Fontaine (1842) for soprano and small orchestra
  • Charles Gounod in a setting for a capella voices (1857)
  • Benjamin Godard in Six Fables de La Fontaine for voice and piano, op.17 (c.1871)
  • Louis Lacombe in a setting dated 1888
  • Charles Lecocq in Six Fables de Jean de la Fontaine for voice and piano (1900)
  • André Caplet in Trois Fables de Jean de la Fontaine (1919) for voice and piano, in a forcefully dramatised version
  • Maurice Delage in Deux fables de Jean de la Fontaine (1931)
  • Joseph Noyon (1888-1962) in a song setting
  • Jean-René Quignard for 2 children’s voices
  • Claude Ballif as the second in his Chansonettes : 5 Fables de La Fontaine for small mixed choir (Op.72, Nº1 1995)
  • Dominique Preschez as the first in his Trois fables en une for small orchestra and soprano (1995)

There was also a setting of the French words by the Dutch composer Rudolf Koumans in Vijf fabels van La Fontaine (op. 25, 1968) for school chorus and orchestra. In 1995 Xavier Benguerel i Godó set a Catalan translation of the fable for recitation with orchestra in his 7 Fábulas de la Fontaine.

Isabelle Aboulker included the fable among the seven in her children's 'fabl'opera' La Fontaine et le Corbeau (1977) for mezzo-soprano, baritone, children’s voices and small chamber orchestra. Jean-Marie Morel (b. 1934) also exploits its dramatic possibilities in what he describes as his small cantata, La Fontaine en chantant (1999), for children's choir and string quartet. David Edgar Walther prefers the term ‘short operatic drama’ for his Aesop's Fables (2009), a 12-minute cycle with libretto by the composer in which "The Fox and The Raven" appears as the first of three pieces. The fable was also choreographed by Dominique Hervieu in 2003 for Annie Sellem's composite ballet project, Les Fables à la Fontaine. In it two dancers perform to a sound fusion score accompanied by video affects.

Other composers went directly to Aesop for their inspiration. In English these include the eleventh item in A Selection of Aesop's Fables Versified and Set to Music with Symphonies and Accompaniments for the Piano Forte (London 1847) and the fifth in Mabel Wood Hill's Aesop's Fables Interpreted Through Music (New York 1920). An English version by Peter Westmore was set for children's voices and piano by Edward Hughes as the second of his ten Songs from Aesop's Fables (1965) and Greg Smith included it in his "Aesop's Fables" for four-part chorus of mixed voices and piano accompaniment (New York/London 1979). In Germany, under the title Der Fuchs und der Rabe, Werner Egk set the fable for children's performance in 1932 and the Swiss composer Bertrand Gay wrote a setting for 2 trumpets, narrator and piano. It was Martin Luther's verse translation that Hans Poser included as the third piece in his Die Fabeln des Äsop for accompanied men's choir (0p.28, 1956). Ancient Greek is used in Lefteris Kordis' setting for octet and voice (2010) among his Songs for Aesop's Fables, which has now been recorded under the title "Oh Raven, If You Only Had Brains!"

At the popular level, a comedy performance of the fable was included in the repertoire of Les Frères Jacques and recorded on their La Fontaine album (1964). In 1970 it was given an early rap interpretation by the French group Dynastie Crisis. There are also folk versions by Sesame Street and, under the title El zorro y el cuervo, by the Catalan folk-rock group Rever on their album "Re-evolucion" (2012). There is even a Berber version by the Kabyle singer Abdelkader Bouhi and a purely musical version composed by Canadian musician Richard Poirier (2010). Finally, the song group mewithoutYou recorded a slightly updated version of the story as "The Fox, The Crow, and The Cookie". Its main point is to use the framework of the fable to weave a verbally inventive text but in the video made to accompany it the underlying story becomes clearer. A fox tries to snatch a cookie from the vendor's barrow. While the latter is distracted with chasing off the fox, the crow swoops down and steals two. The fox then asks the crow for a share and, when this does not work, resorts to flattery: Your lovely song would grace my ears...Your poems of wisdom, my good crow, what a paradise they bring! And the fox gets his cookie.

Read more about this topic:  The Fox And The Crow (Aesop)

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