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Introducing Maurice Ravel

feat. the Master himself

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Maurice Ravel was born in 1875 and died in 1937.

Those dates mean that if you were looking at a musical history timeline he'd be sitting just after Richard Wagner, but you'd never guess that from his music. Ravel's musical style represented a unique blend of influences. Firstly, like his contemporary and compatriot Claude Debussy he's known as an Impressionist composer, which rather like with impressionist painting meant creating suggestion and atmosphere rather than a solid musical scene or story. He was also a neoclassicist, putting his own unique spin on the musical tricks of the past, whether that was returning to Baroque dances or classical sonata form for his structures, or harmonies ancient-sounding modal tonality. He wasn't averse to the new either, as jazz would be an influence later on in his career. Then his parents played their parts in his musical makeup too. The family were from the Basque region of France which borders Spain. Furthermore his mother had grown up in Madrid, and so Ravel had a particular affinity for Spanish music, which he demonstrated most famously with his Bolero. Then from his engineer father he inherited a love of mechanical machines: he owned a collection of mechanical toys, and his life-long love of minute machinework is constantly on show in the precision and detail of his musical part writing and textures. In fact Stravinsky famously referred to him as “the perfect Swiss watchmaker”. Then finally and perhaps most charmingly of all, as that mechanical toy collection hints at he was able to tap into his inner child probably like no composer before or since. This means works inspired by fairytales and the like, but also more generally the ability to create music of immense purity, playfulness and innocence. We hope that with our special Ravel Collection you'll enjoy picking out the various aspects of his musical personality. They're all in here, so have fun!

Curation: Natascha Klotschkoff

Text: Charlotte Gardner

Speaker: Charlotte Gardner

Visual Art: Philipp Nicolai Hertel

  • Introducing Maurice Ravel

  • An introduction to Ravel — Tzigane

  • Tzigane Preview Only

    Maurice Ravel

    Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Emilia Kopatchinskaja, Viktor Kopatchinsky, Martin Gjakonovski, Mihaela Ursuleasa2009
  • An introduction to Ravel — Jeux d'eau

  • Jeux d'eau Preview Only

    Maurice Ravel

    Alexandre Tharaud2003
  • An introduction to Ravel — Introduction et allegro

  • Introduction et allegro Preview Only

    Maurice Ravel

    Ursula Holliger, Peter Lukas-Graf, Hans Rudolf Stalder, Die Kammermusiker Zürich
  • An introduction to Ravel — Daphnis et Chloé

  • Daphnis et Chloé Preview Only

    Maurice Ravel

    Valery Gergiev, London Symphony Orchestra2009
  • An introduction to Ravel — Épigrammes de Clément Marot

  • Épigrammes de Clément Marot Preview Only

    Maurice Ravel

    Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hartmut Höll1983

(Preview Only)