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Maurice Ravel


Ravel, who was born in the Basque area of France in 1875, began music instruction at the age of six. He delivered his first public piano recital when he was 14 years old. 'As a child, I was sensitive to music, to all kinds of music,' stated Ravel.1)


Ravel's father, Joseph, was an inventor who created the infamous 'Whirlwind of Death' circus machine. Joseph took his sons to factories to view the latest machinery and instilled a passion of music in them.2)


The new music pouring out of Russia, particularly Rimsky- Korsakov's, enthralled the young Maurice Ravel. His father also introduced him to Erik Satie, shown, whose distinct personality and unconventional music had a great influence on Ravel.3)


Ravel was a dandy by the age of 20, careful about his attire and behavior. He had been a smoker his entire life and appreciated nice cuisine, exquisite wine, and lively conversation.4)

Gabriel Fauré

Ravel studied composing with his idol, Gabriel Fauré. Ravel had strong feelings about music and performers in general, calling much of Beethoven “exasperating,” Wagner's influence “pernicious,” and Berlioz's harmony “clumsy”. 5)

Rivalry With Debussy

Debussy and Ravel were fans of each other's music. Ravel did, however, critique Debussy on occasion, particularly over his orchestration, once declaring, 'If I had the time, I would reorchestrate La Mer'.6)


Ravel conducted his first orchestral composition, Shéhérazade, in 1899, and was met with a boisterous response of boos and cheers. One critic regarded the composer as a'mediocrely gifted debutante…who, if he works hard, will perhaps become something, if not someone, in roughly ten years'.7)

Pictures At An Exhibition

Ravel rose to prominence as a great orchestrator, meticulously researching each musical instrument to ascertain its capabilities. Ravel's famous orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition earned him a lot of money.8)

Daphnis et Chloé

In 1909, Ravel began work on his ballet Daphnis et Chloé, a commission from Diaghilev for the legendary dancer Nijinsky. They can be seen here playing from the score together. It was a difficult project, and the response was lukewarm.9)

Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte

The Pavane pour une Infante Defunte was composed as a piano piece for Princesse Edmond de Polignac, whose father was Isaac Singer, the well-known sewing machine manufacturer. Despite the title, Ravel was quick to stress out that the piece is not a funeral lament, but rather 'an evocative of the pavane that may have been danced by such a tiny princess as painted by Velazquez'.10)

Great War

Ravel served as a truck driver at the Verdun front during World War I. The conflict caused him so much anguish that a lot of key initiatives never materialized. He did, however, finish Le Tombeau de Couperin, dedicating each movement to a friend who died in the war.11)


Ravel's Boléro originated as Ravel's Fandango, written in response to a commission from a Russian ballerina. It was characterized by the composer as a “piece for orchestra without music.” Torvill and Dean notably skated to the relentless, repeated melody at the Sarajevo Winter Olympics in 1984.12)

Jazz Era

Ravel embarked on a profitable four-month, 25-city concert tour of the United States in 1928. He traveled to Harlem with Gershwin to hear jazz and later visited New Orleans. His love of jazz inspired him to incorporate jazz themes into a handful of his later compositions, particularly the two piano concertos. The photograph depicts a Ravel birthday celebration in New York City on March 8, 1928. Oscar Fried, conductor; Eva Gauthier, singer; Ravel playing piano; Manoah Leide-Tedesco, composer-conductor; and George Gershwin, from left to right.13)

Piano Concerto In G

The Piano Concerto in G was always intended to be a lighthearted composition, beginning with a whip-crack. Gershwinian jazz elements abound in the work. The lovely second movement is to die for. 'How I worked it over bar by bar!' said Ravel. 'It almost killed me!'14)


Ravel was involved in a taxi accident in 1932 that resulted in a hit to the head. He was usually absent-minded after that. The remainder of his life was blighted by a brain malfunction, most likely caused by Pick's illness, which progressively impacted his speech and movement. In 1937, he died following a final, unsuccessful operation.15)

maurice_ravel.txt · Last modified: 2022/02/01 00:42 by eziothekilla34