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More about Maurice Ravel
Meticulous in all facets of life from his appearance to his detailed orchestrations, Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937) has unequivocally become one of the most influential composers and master orchestrators from the Impressionist period.
Born Joseph Maurice Ravel in 1875 to a highly-educated father and a barely literate mother, his life began with significant contrast. Despite being illiterate, Ravel’s mother was a progressive and a strong nonconformist, aspects that had a significant impression on the young composer and traits that he would apply to all areas in life from politics to religion. Ravel’s mother sang folk melodies to him from an early age and, as such, when he started taking formal piano lessons at age 7 he showed a natural, and advanced, musical inclination. With encouragement from his parents he entered Paris Conservatoire early in his early adolescence but was, by no means, a remarkable piano student, but instead showed compositional preference.
By the early 1900’s, Ravel was making waves in the world of music and many budding composers sought him out as a composition tutor. He was, however, not a self-described tutor and was very particular with his student choice, one of whom was English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. Interestingly enough, after much consideration, he rejected George Gershwin as a pupil for the fear of disturbing Gershwin’s natural and unique compositional voice - an aspect Ravel put great emphasis on developing when teaching in his own students. Gershwin would remain a lifelong friend of Ravel, however, and toured Harlem with the composer to listen to Jazz, a genre that Maurice adored and incorporated into later works.
In spite of surviving participation in the Great War and leading a subsequently successful compositional career, Ravel would die in 1937 following an operation to try and help ease a brain condition. Having never written a single symphony, many criticized Ravel in his lifetime for producing a much smaller output of original works than his contemporaries. However, even though he was a slow and fastidious composer, the emphasis he placed on quality over quantity is undeniable. Having fewer works should have indeed increased his obsolescence, however with works of quality such as “Boléro”, “Miroirs” and “Daphnis et Chloé” in his repertoire, these only serve as an illustration into the importance of Maurice Ravel.
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