For the first time in the long-running history of Composer of the Week, Donald Macleod explores Ravel's life and music in the context of his friends in the artistic group, "Les Apaches".
Ravel's music will be threaded through the week, alongside works by fellow Apaches, Maurice Delage, Déodat de Séverac, Florent Schmitt, Paul Ladmirault and Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht. Among the music featured, there are some rarely heard gems, performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the BBC Singers.
Donald Macleod begins by looking at the early days of "Les Apaches" in the company of Jann Pasler, Professor of Music at the University of California. Ravel's set of piano pieces "Miroirs" bears dedications to five members of the group, while Delage references the painter Paul Sordes, who provided the studio where the first meetings took place. Déodat de Séverac's music evokes the sunny landscape of the Languedoc, and there's a rare opportunity to hear works by Paul Ladmirault and by D.E Inghelbrecht, in recordings made specially for Composer of the Week by the BBC Singers and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Paris was populated by a multitude of composers, painters, writers and poets. When he was in his mid-twenties, Ravel became part of an informal group of artists involved in a range of different specialisms. Active in the years running up to the first world war, the numbers fluctuated, with anything up to twenty-five members. Around the time that the Ballets Russes was taking Paris by storm, Stravinsky and Manuel de Falla also joined the group.
The earlier musical members of "Les Apaches" were similar in age; indeed many of them had met while studying at the Paris Conservatory. They included Ravel, and his childhood friend, the Spanish pianist Ricardo Viñes, who gave first performances of many works by Apache members. We'll also be hearing from Maurice Delage, a life-long friend of Ravel, who's probably best known to us as the composer of Four Hindu Poems, the exotically named minor aristocrat Déodat de Séverac whose music is infused with the light and character of his roots in Southern France, major chamber and orchestral pieces by Prix de Rome winner Florent Schmitt, songs and an orchestral piece much admired by Debussy from the Breton Paul Ladmirault and some rarely heard orchestral works by Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht. Better known as a conductor, Inghelbrecht was an acclaimed interpreter of Debussy, holding a series of important musical directorships before he formed the Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française in 1934.
Admirers of Debussy and Russian music in particular, the Apaches took to meeting up once a week to hear each other's music and poetry, toss around ideas and share their views on the prevailing artistic currents. A group formed casually through friendship is often difficult to detail but in this case several Apache members left accounts. Dipping into these sources, Donald Macleod explores Ravel as he was remembered by his friends, in particular Ricardo Viñes, the poets Léon-Paul Fargue and Tristan Klingsor (Léon Leclère) and the writer and critic Michel Dmitri Calvocoressi. He'll also be talking to Jann Pasler, from the University of California, San Diego, the author of several studies on the Apaches. They'll be fitting the musical jigsaw together, illustrating how different professional activities were mutually beneficial to Apache members and evaluating the group's significance and legacy.