Maurice Ravel Biography (BBC)
Could it be said that Ravel composed in the shadow of Debussy? Their names so frequently trip off the tongue together that it’s too easy to ignore their differences. While there were similarities in their musical language – both used ‘added-note’ harmonies and melodies often more like oriental arabesques than Romantic tunes – the 13 years that separated them were crucial. Debussy began composing around 1880, while Ravel didn’t really get going until the mid-1890s. How the musical climate had changed in the interim!
Piano-playing was at the centre of Ravel’s musical life during his teens. At the age of 13 he had met Ricardo Viñes, the pianist who was later to become the champion of much piano music by both Debussy and Ravel. Together, they played Chabrier’s Trois valses romantiques to the composer.
Across the turn of the century, Ravel sporadically studied with Fauré and began a spectacularly unsuccessful pursuit of the Prix de Rome, awarded by the French Académie des Beaux-Arts. Reading between the lines, his attitude to his formal teaching seemed entirely the opposite of Debussy’s: while the latter composer was a rebellious challenger, Ravel seemed more in pursuit of classical perfection.
Indebted to Chabrier, his first lasting piece was the Pavane pour une infante défunte for piano (1899, later orchestrated). More groundbreaking was his piano piece Jeux d’eau (1901), which he wrote when he was 26 and which vied with Debussy’s ‘Reflets dans l’eau’ from the first book of Images for the honour of inaugurating the new Impressionist piano style.
He began to turn his attention to a wide variety of forms: the opulent oriental orchestral songs of Shéhérazade date from 1903, the same year in which he finished his String Quartet, a work which, like the Sonatine for piano (begun the same year), shows two opposite sides of his musical personality: the one sybaritic and hedonistic, the other Classical, formal and restrained. Somewhere between the two lies the delightful sound-world of the Introduction and Allegro for harp and chamber group.
Another talent of Ravel’s was his virtuosity in pastiche, which he used to great effect, especially in his two operas: L’heure espagnole (1907–9) parodies both Spanish music and Offenbach, while the delightful L’enfant et les sortilèges (1920–25) is a self-confessed parade of pastiches of all kinds of music, including ragtime.
Association with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes resulted in the opulently orchestrated Daphnis and Chloë (1909–12), with its masterly depiction of a sunrise. Amid deteriorating health Ravel, in his fifties, produced his two piano concertos as well as his bestseller, Boléro, which he flippantly described as a ‘piece for orchestra without music’.
Profile © Richard Langham Smith
Maurice Ravel Biography (Wikipedia)
Joseph Maurice Ravel (7 March 1875 – 28 December 1937) was a French composer, pianist and conductor. He is often associated with impressionism along with his elder contemporary Claude Debussy, although both composers rejected the term. In the 1920s and 1930s Ravel was internationally regarded as France's greatest living composer.
Born to a music-loving family, Ravel attended France's premier music college, the Paris Conservatoire; he was not well regarded by its conservative establishment, whose biased treatment of him caused a scandal. After leaving the conservatoire Ravel found his own way as a composer, developing a style of great clarity, incorporating elements of baroque, neoclassicism and, in his later works, jazz. He liked to experiment with musical form, as in his best-known work, Boléro (1928), in which repetition takes the place of development. He made some orchestral arrangements of other composers' music, of which his 1922 version of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition is the best known.
- Ravel: Boléro (in binaural sound)https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p04706bg.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p04706bg.jpg2016-07-18T21:05:39.000ZListen on headphones to Valery Gergiev conducting the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p044by30
Ravel: Boléro (in binaural sound)
- Oliver Wass plays Ravel live on In Tunehttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03v0kt0.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03v0kt0.jpg2016-05-13T14:03:00.000ZOliver Wass plays his own transcription of Ravel's 'Jeux d'eau' live in the studio.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03v0qdy
Oliver Wass plays Ravel live on In Tune
- Ravel: La valse (extract)https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03ns4bs.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03ns4bs.jpg2016-04-20T11:00:00.000ZPreview of music performed at the BBC Proms.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03ns4dh
Ravel: La valse (extract)
- Ravel: Bolero (extract)https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03nsdw2.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03nsdw2.jpg2016-04-17T11:00:00.000ZPreview of music performed at the BBC Promshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03nsgsy
Ravel: Bolero (extract)
- Ravel: Mother Goose - suite (extract)https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03pgsjn.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03pgsjn.jpg2016-04-17T11:00:00.000ZPreview of music performed at the BBC Promshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03pgsmx
Ravel: Mother Goose - suite (extract)
- Ravel: Piano Concerto in Ghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02k0gmq.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02k0gmq.jpg2015-02-14T13:54:00.000ZJonathan Swain has some tough decisions to make as he explores the available recordings of Ravel's Piano Concerto in G to make a personal recommendation.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p02k0gmy
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G
- Rhythmhttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01zv1px.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01zv1px.jpg2014-05-27T09:14:00.000ZLeonard Slatkin explores ways of listening to a basic element of music: rhythm.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01zv1qk
- Ravel: Alborada Del Graciosohttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01w8cdy.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01w8cdy.jpg2014-03-26T15:29:00.000ZRob Cowan provides a personal recommendation from the available recordings of Ravel's Alborada Del Gracioso, 'The Jester's Dawn Song'.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01w8cf1
Ravel: Alborada Del Gracioso
Maurice Ravel Performances