Ravel, the most captivating musician of the 20th century, internationally renowned thanks to his Boléro, was a precocious child. Nevertheless, his studies at the Conservatoire were not crowned with the famous Prix de Rome, which he attempted three times. On the other hand, his encounters with Gabriel Fauré and Gédalge were to be important and decisive for his musical orientation. His friendship with the pianist Ricardo Vines led him to compose his first pages for the instrument, Pavane for a Dead Princess and Water Games (Jeux d’eau), whose pianistic writing was both sumptuous and daring. Set aside from official spheres, Ravel was solely concerned with composition and produced masterpieces in quick succession: Tales from Nature, Demons of the Night, and Spanish Rhapsody.
Ravel proved his genius for ballet music with Daphnis and Chloé<§o>, which was first performed by the company of Diaghilev. The First World War was to break this magnificent creative surge. Weakened and traumatised by the slaughter, the composer wrote poignant and masterful works like the Tombeau for Couperin, an offering to the victims of the war. Suffering from ill health, Ravel spent the last years of his life in his house in Monfort-l’Amaury composing the two piano concertos, his final works.
Maurice Ravel's work
Between nostalgia and tenderness, Ravel’s work never ceases to sing of childhood. From Mother Goose to The Child and the Spells, the composer unfurls a palette of magical colours. Always precise, sometimes concise, Ravel’s writing is meticulous, a perfect balance between sensual flights of lyricism and moments of implacable rhythm magnified by flamboyant orchestration. A man of discretion who kept away from conflicts, Ravel left behind a work of unique perfection carved from crystal.
“Everything has perhaps been said throughout the world on the so-particularly French genius of Ravel. But it has not been said enough that this apparently cold man who seemed dry and stuffy to those who did not know him well, was in fact profoundly sensitive and good and that he was the truest friend there ever was”.
Maurice Ravel : Main works
Pavane for a Dead Princess for piano (1899)
Demons of the Night, triptych for piano (1908)
Daphnis and Chloé, ballet for orchestra and chorus (1912)
The Child and the Spells, lyrical fantasy in two parts for soloists, chorus and orchestra (1925)
Boléro, ballet for orchestra (1928)
Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major (1932)