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Maurice Ravel

Maurice Ravel was born on March 7, 1875 in Ciboure, Basses Pyrnes, France, and he died December 28,
1937 in Paris, France. Some of his first memories were of his mother singing to him, and her Basque, Spain
roots were a strong influence on the young Ravel. With an almost chance genius in music, other than this early
experience Ravel had no musical talent in his modest middle-class family.
Still encouraged to take lessons, Maurice began piano with Henry Ghys and received his first instruction in
harmony and counterpoint at age seven. He did this while also beginning composition with Charles-Ren. His
earliest public piano recital was in 1889 at age fourteen.
Ravels parents encouraged his musical pursuits and sent him to the Conservatoire de Paris. He first began as a
preparatory student and eventually became a piano major. He received a first prize in the piano student
competition in 1891. Since he did not earn the required competitive medal for three consecutive years, Ravel
was not allowed to return to the Conservatoire de Paris in 1895.
Three years later (1898), after turning down a music professorship in Tunisia, he instead returned to the
Conservatoire determined to focus on composing rather than piano playing. Ravel began studies with Gabriel
Faur and studied composition with him for a remarkable fourteen years. Ravel found his teachers personality
and methods sympathetic and they remained friends and colleagues. Ravel studied the ability of each orchestral
instrument carefully in order to determine the possible effects, and was sensitive to their color and timbre. This
may account for his success as an orchestrator and as a transcriber of his own piano works.
Ravel never married nor had children, but his cultivated persona was balanced with his joy and warmth for
children and animals. This empathatic attitude led him to serve in the first World War, but only as as an
ambulance driver due to his short stature. After a serious car accident in 1932 Ravel was rumored to have
developed a brain tumor and died several years later in 1937. though Ravel never won coveted Prix de Rome
award, he along with Claude Debussy developed a unique French school of music, and left a wealth of
celebrated and ingenious compositions.
Historical Context in which the composer lives
As a composer of Impressionist music, Ravel was known for the gentle depth and intensity of his melodies,
orchestral and instrumental textures, and dramatic outcomes.
Though Ravel was a talented pianist his preference was for composing.
He was particularly impressed with Russian works by Rimsky-Korsakov, which he heard at the Exhibition
Universelle in 1889. In addition to the influential Russian School inspiring Ravel and other students like Claude
Debussy was a shared apperciation for the music of Richard Wagner, and the writings of Edgar Allan Poe,
Charles Baudelaire, and Stphane Mallarm. It too was during this year Ravel met Ricardo Vies, who would
become one of his best friends, one of the leading tranlators of his piano music, and an imperative connection
between Ravel and Spanish music.
Ravel spent his life as as composer of piano music, chamber music, vocal music and orchestral music. While his
most famous reknowned work is probably the orchesral work, Bolro, he also composed what some call the
finest French ballet ever written, Daphnis et Chlo.