The life of the brilliant composer Maurice Ravel

The life of the brilliant composer Maurice Ravel


Originally from Versoix, Canton of Geneva (Switzerland), the father of the future composer, Pierre Joseph Ravel, graduated as a mechanical engineer and decided to settle in France. His studies diverted him from music, not without regrets. A pioneer in the automotive industry, he owes his reputation to building a steam generator for the locomotive and developing a two-stroke engine. obtaining a patent for a steam generator heated by oil, applied to locomotion and inventing a supercharged two-stroke engine.

Joseph Maurice Ravel (March 7, 1875 – December 28, 1937)

A brilliant engineer father

For the people of Neuilly, Pierre Joseph Ravel was the man who drove a steam-driven automobile for the first time. He joined Gustave Eiffel to participate in the construction of railways in Spain. In New Castile, he falls in love with Marie Delouart, whom he marries on April 3, 1873, in Madrid.

Two years later, Joseph-Maurice Ravel was born on March 7, 1875. The Ravel family moved back to Paris, on Martyrs Street. This is where the composer’s brother, Edouard, was born. There was a lot of singing in the Ravel family. Frustrated that he did not complete a musical career, Pierre-Joseph is very attentive to the eldest son’s musical education. Little Maurice was sensitive to any kind of music. At the age of seven, he received his first piano lesson from composer Henry Ghys, who finds him intelligent.

Absorbed by his passion for music, the future composer enrolled at the Conservatory, where he won the jury with an excerpt from a Chopin concert. He then tries his hand at composing “Serenade grotesque” and “Ballade de la reine morte d’aimer”. But his entourage, liqueur sipped on the terrace of a popular cafe, “La Nouvelle Athene”, prevented him from working.

“You’re a murderer, you should be the first in the class and you’re the last”, one of his teachers said. Still drawn to composition, Maurice Ravel created “Menuet antique” and “Habanera”.

Delighted, his teacher, the famous musician, Gabriel Faure, introduces his student to the “bastion of artistic intimacy”, which is “Wednesday of Madame de Saint-Marceaux”.

Here Maurice meets Colette, his future librettist. At the time, the musician was shy, kept a distant air, and was a big fan of jabou blouses. Princess de Polignac commissioned the composition “Pavane pour une infante défunte”.

Unlucky at receiving awards

Although very talented, Ravel fails to win the Rome prize, although he competes three times! Defended by the press and Romain Rolland, the musician resigned and composed “Quatuor en fa” and “Scheherazade”. Together with Camille Saint-Saens, he founded the Independent National Society, which promotes the freedom of music in motion, as a protest against the attitude of the National Music Society, which rejects a symphonic poem composed by Maurice Delage.

In 1912, he presented the ballet Daphnis et Chloe, commissioned by a “certain” Serge de Diaghilev three years earlier. Nijinsky and Karsavina play the lead roles. The premiere was a success, with the audience excited. But in 1914 the war comes and Ravel wants to go to the front as an aviation observer. He fails, being enlisted as a lorry driver. Returning home depressed, in 1917, he arrives in Paris to close his mother’s eyes.

He composed “Le Tombeau de Couperin”, a work he dedicated to his friends who died in the war. He then wrote an opera in Coletta’s libretto (“L’Enfant et les sortileges”). Debussy’s death propels him, but he refuses the Legion of Honor, triggering a new Paris storm. But the composer doesn’t care. An international career is opening up before him.
In 1928 he embarked for the United States. In New York, on a March evening, Gershwin waits for Ravel at the end of a concert to ask him to teach him composition. “You would only lose the spontaneous quality of your melody, and end by writing bad Ravel”, warns the master.

The victim of an accident

Commissioned by dancer Ida Rubinstein, the brilliant “Bolero” – originally entitled “Le Fandango” – is first performed on November 22, 1928 at the Paris Opera, choreographed by Borislava Nijinska. Edouard, the composer’s brother, attended the premiere. When the curtain fell, a spectator began to shout. No one suspected then that this musical work would become a legend.

On the night of October 8-9, the composer is the victim of a common car accident. He is thrown into a car window, suffering injuries to several places on the head. Struck by brain disorders, Ravel begins to lose confidence in his strength. In 1937, after much hesitation, he agreed to undergo surgery. One day after the operation, he goes into a coma. On December 28, his heart, a treasure trove of songs, ceases to beat.

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