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Friday, 7 July 2017

Maurice Ravel

Joseph-Maurice Ravel was born to a music-loving family on March 7, 1875, in Ciboure, France, to a Basque mother and a Swiss engineer father.

He moved to Paris with his family as an infant. It soon became clear that Maurice was musically gifted, so his father arranged for him to have piano lessons with a well-known teacher. In 1889, aged just 14, Maurice entered France's most important musical college the Paris Conservatoire.

Maurice Ravel in 1925
Ravel left the Conservatoire in 1895, but went back in 1897 to study composition with Gabriel Fauré and counterpoint and orchestration with Andreé Gédalge. However, Ravel never got a prize for composition, so he left Fauré's class in 1903.

Ravel won recognition with the "Pavane pour une infante défunte" (1899, Pavane for a Dead Princess). However, his impressionist style was not well regarded by its conservative establishment.

He failed three times to win the coveted Prix de Rome in the early 1900s, as the judges liked traditional music and did not understand his style. Ravel's supporters sent letters of protest that resulted in the resignation of the director of the Conservatoire and his replacement by Faure.

Ravel lived a quiet, reclusive life focused on writing music. He dressed like a dandy and was meticulous about his appearance and demeanor, but little else is known about his private life.

Ravel saw active service during World War 1. He joined the Thirteenth Artillery Regiment as a lorry driver in March 1915, when he was forty. Some of Ravel's duties put him in mortal danger, driving munitions at night under heavy German bombardment.

Ravel in French Army uniform in 1916

He was a contemporary - and rival - of fellow composer Claude Debussy. After the death of Debussy in 1918, Ravel was generally seen worldwide as the leading French composer of the era.

Ravel was among the first composers to recognize the potential of recording to bring their music to a wider public. In 1913 there was a gramophone recording of Jeux d'eau played by Mark Hambourg, and throughout the 1920s there was a steady stream of recordings of his works. Some of these featured Ravel himself, despite his limited technique as a pianist or conductor. Others were made under his supervision.


In 1928 the dancer Ida Rubinstein asked Maurice Ravel to compose a ballet score transcribed from Isaac Albéniz's set of piano pieces, Iberia. While working on the transcription, it came to Ravel's attention that there were copyright problems, so he decided to write a completely new piece in a Spanish dance style. The work he came up with Boléro is now recognized as his most famous musical composition.

Boléro was debuted at the Paris Opéra on November 22, 1928. The composition was deemed a sensational success and was acclaimed by a stamping, cheering audience.

Ravel lived from 1921 until his death at Le Belvédère in Montfort-l'Amaury, a commune in the Yvelines department in the Île-de-France region in north-central France.
Le Belvédère By ℍenry Salomé (Jaser !) 

Ravel developed muscle problems and aphasia in the late 1920s. Unsuccessful brain surgery led to his death in Paris on December 28, 1937.

Originally written for Songfacts

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