Maurice Ravel  
Maurice Ravel

Ravel in 1925
Maurice Ravel, in full Joseph-Maurice Ravel (born March 7, 1875, Ciboure, France—died December 28, 1937, Paris), French composer of Swiss-Basque descent, noted for his musical craftsmanship and perfection of form and style in such works as Boléro (1928), Pavane pour une infante défunte (1899; Pavane for a Dead Princess), Rapsodie espagnole (1907), the ballet Daphnis et Chloé (first performed 1912), and the opera L’Enfant et les sortilèges (1925; The Child and the Enchantments).

Ravel was born in a village near Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France, of a Swiss father and a Basque mother. His family background was an artistic and cultivated one, and the young Maurice received every encouragement from his father when his talent for music became apparent at an early age. In 1889, at 14, he entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he remained until 1905. During this period he composed some of his best known works, including the Pavane for a Dead Princess, the Sonatine for piano, and the String Quartet. All these works, especially the two latter, show the astonishing early perfection of style and craftsmanship that are the hallmarks of Ravel’s entire oeuvre. He is one of the rare composers whose early works seem scarcely less mature than those of his maturity. Indeed, his failure at the Conservatoire, after three attempts, to win the coveted Prix de Rome for composition (the works he submitted were judged too “advanced” by ultraconservative members of the jury) caused something of a scandal. Indignant protests were published, and liberal-minded musicians and writers, including the musicologist and novelist Romain Rolland, supported Ravel. As a result, the director of the Conservatoire, Théodore Dubois, was forced to resign, and his place was taken by the composer Gabriel Fauré, with whom Ravel had studied composition.

Ravel was in no sense a revolutionary musician. He was for the most part content to work within the established formal and harmonic conventions of his day, still firmly rooted in tonality—i.e., the organization of music around focal tones. Yet, so very personal and individual was his adaptation and manipulation of the traditional musical idiom that it would be true to say he forged for himself a language of his own that bears the stamp of his personality as unmistakably as any work of Bach or Chopin. While his melodies are almost always modal (i.e., based not on the conventional Western diatonic scale but on the old Greek Phrygian and Dorian modes), his harmonies derive their often somewhat acid flavour from his fondness for “added” notes and unresolved appoggiaturas, or notes extraneous to the chord that are allowed to remain harmonically unresolved. He enriched the literature of the piano by a series of masterworks, ranging from the early Jeux d’eau (completed 1901) and the Miroirs of 1905 to the formidable Gaspard de la nuit (1908), Le Tombeau de Couperin (1917), and the two piano concerti (1931). Of his purely orchestral works, the Rapsodie espagnole and Boléro are the best known and reveal his consummate mastery of the art of instrumentation. But perhaps the highlights of his career were his collaboration with the Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev, for whose Ballets Russes he composed the masterpiece Daphnis et Chloé, and with the French writer Colette, who was the librettist of his best known opera, L’Enfant et les sortilèges. The latter work gave Ravel an opportunity of doing ingenious and amusing things with the animals and inanimate objects that come to life in this tale of bewitchment and magic in which a naughty child is involved. His only other operatic venture had been his brilliantly satirical L’Heure espagnole (first performed 1911). As a songwriter Ravel achieved great distinction with his imaginative Histoires naturelles, Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé, and Chansons madécasses.

Ravel’s life was in the main uneventful. He never married, and, though he enjoyed the society of a few chosen friends, he lived the life of a semirecluse at his country retreat at Montfort-L’Amaury, in the forest of Rambouillet, near Paris. He served in World War I for a short time as a truck driver at the front, but the strain was too great for his fragile constitution, and he was discharged from the army in 1917.

In 1928 Ravel embarked on a four months’ tour of Canada and the United States and in the same year visited England to receive an honorary degree of doctor of music from Oxford. That year also saw the creation of Boléro in its original form as a ballet, with Ida Rubinstein in the principal role.

The last five years of Ravel’s life were clouded by aphasia, which not only prevented him from writing another note of music but also deprived him of the power of speech and made it impossible for him even to sign his name. Perhaps the real tragedy of his condition was that his musical imagination remained as active as ever. An operation to relieve the obstruction of a blood vessel that supplies the brain was unsuccessful. Ravel was buried in the cemetery of Levallois, a Paris suburb in which he had lived, in the presence of Stravinsky and other distinguished musicians and composers.

For Ravel, music was a kind of ritual, having its own laws, to be conducted behind high walls, sealed off from the outside world, and impenetrable to unauthorized intruders. When his Russian contemporary Igor Stravinsky compared Ravel to “the most perfect of Swiss watchmakers,” he was in fact extolling those qualities of intricacy and precision to which he himself attached so much importance.

Rollo H. Myers

Encyclopædia Britannica

Maurice Ravel, painting by Ludwig Nauer, 1930.


Renowned for its eclectic, individual style and rebellious nature, Ravel's music is the product of scrupulous craftsmanship. Ravel was born in the Pyrenees but brought up in Pans. He began piano lessons at the age of seven and entered the Pans Conservatoire in 1889. As a child he was easily distracted from his studies, and his mother resorted to offering him bribes for each hour of work completed. A tutor's nightmare, he refused to obey musical conventions in his compositions and took mischievous delight in hunting down similar examples m the works of established masters.

One of the most important events of his formative years was his attendance at the Pans World Exhibition of 1889. There he responded with great excitement to his first contact with oriental harmonies, performances on the Javanese gamelan. He also attended many concerts of Russian music. Rimsky-Korsakov was an immediate favourite, and later in life Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an exhibition established the work in the orchestral repertoire.

Ravel left the Conservatoire in 1895 but returned two years later to study with Faure, whose sympathetic and liberal-minded encouragement did much to develop his style. This is seen in the lyrical String quartet in F major (1903), whose silky and charming character emulates Faure's own style. Despite the success of this work. Ravel could not satisfy the Conservatoire authorities when it came to harmony exercises. In 1905, after he failed to pass the first stage in the coveted Prix de Rome competition, the press took up his cause and a heated debate ensued. The furore was so great that Theodore Dubois, Director of the Conservatoire, resigned his post to be replaced by Faure. The only person who appeared indifferent to these events was Ravel himself: he was happily yachting in Holland at the time.

In 1908 he completed a three-part work for piano, Gaspard de la nuit, in which the dazzling, virtuosic writing serves to remind the listener of Ravel's lifelong admiration for Liszt. The following year he began his most ambitious stage work - the ballet Daphnis ct Chloe. It contains some of his most remarkable and beautiful music and was highly successful both in the theatre and as an orchestral piece in the concert hall.

The outbreak of World War I had a profound effect on Ravel. He clearly believed that he had a duty to serve his country, and although he was classified unfit for military service, he managed to secure a job as a driver in the motor transport corps. He fell dangerously ill in 1916 and returned to Paris only to find his mother on her death bed. After her funeral he went into a deep depression: he had never married, and she was the only focus of his love. However, he was soon composing again and, in common with several French artists during this period, turned his attentions to reviving past national glories. This is most clearly demonstrated in Le tombeau de Couperin, a suite based on Baroque dance forms. Each of the work's six movements is dedicated to a victim of the war and written in a beautifully clear and pure style that has ensured lasting popularity with concert audiences.

With the death of Debussy in 1918, Ravel became generally recognized as the leading light of French music, although he continued to view the establishment with suspicion and tried to minimize his contact with it. The last 17 years of his life were dogged by gradually worsening ill health, which adversely affected the quantity, but not the quality, of his output. Despite suffering increasingly from insomnia and nervous debility, he travelled extensively to receive warm welcomes in both Europe and the United States. In 1924 he wrote his short opera L'enfant et les sortileges, followed in 1928 by his best-known work, Bolero, exciting yet more scandal in the Paris press. It was conceived as a musical joke and consists of a single theme repeated with increasing intensity and density of orchestration. His final works, the two piano concertos, both composed in 1931, mark the end of his creative career. Both pieces overflow with Ravelian drive and panache, although the Piano concerto for left hand, written for the pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his arm m the war, is considerably more serious in outlook.

The year 1932 marks the beginning of Ravel's tragic final period, during which he gradually succumbed to a progressively incapacitating illness. With his death, French music lost one of its dazzling innovators in terms both of his development of pianistic technique and his colourful orchestral writing.


Морис Равель, 1912



Sonata No.1 for violin and piano in G major 
Duo Montefiore
Blues: Moderato

Nicholas York

Pavane pour une infante defunte

Trio in A minor for violin, cello and piano
The Waltz

Prelude (1913)
Robert Stahlbrand


Gaspard de la Nuit (1908)
Ken Sasaki
Le Gibet


Jeux d'eau
S. Kopp


Le Tombeau de Couperin
R. Stahlbrand


L. Welch
Menuet Antique


Ma Mere l'Oye
Pavane de la Belle au Bois Dormant

Les oiseaux tristes
Une Barque sur l'Ocean
Alborada del Gracioso
La vallée des cloches

Serenade Grotesque


John Robson
Mouvement de menuet



Valses Nobles et Sentimentales
T. Dussaut
Modere, Assez lent
 Assez anime, Presque lent
 Moins vif, Epilogue: lent

Rapsodie espagnola
Umesh Shankar

Paganini Duo
Vocalise-etude (piece) en forme de habanera

String Quartet in F Major
Enso String Quartet
Assez vif - Tres rhytme

Don Quichotte a Dulcinee
Randall Scarlata
Chanson romanesque
Christine Petrowska Quilico (with Louis Quilico)
Chanson a boire


The Best of Ravel
1. Boléro, ballet for orchestra
2. La valse, poème choréographique for orchestra
3. Daphnis et Chloé, ballet for orchestra
4. Piano Concerto in G major- I. Allegramente
5. Piano Concerto in G major- II. Adagio assai
6. Piano Concerto in G major- III. Presto
Maurice Ravel - Bolero
Maurice Ravel, Bolero for Orchestra London Symphony Orchestra Cond. Valery Gergiev
Maya Plisetskaya - Bolero (choreography by Maurice Béjart)
Maurice Béjart's "Bolero" in the performance of a brilliant Jewish dancer Maya Plisetskaya.
Ravel Bolero for cello quartet (full length) - The 4cellists
Ravel's Bolero arranged for cello quartet without skipping or cutting any bars! Arranged by James Barralet.

To get the music for this and other arrangements, visit www.jamesbarralet.com

Concert in Seoul 2012 by the 4cellists - Young Song, Claes Gunnarsson, Li-Wei Qin, Joel Marosi

Bolero - Maurice Ravel / Leonard Berstein & the New York Philharmonic
Ravel Piano Concerto In G Major Argerich Dutoit Orchestre National De France Frankfurt 9 9 1990
Maurice Ravel - Piano Concerto for the left hand
The Orchestra of the University of Music FRANZ LISZT Weimar (Conductor: Prof. Nicolás Pasquet) plays Maurice Ravels Piano concerto for the left hand, which he composed 1929 for austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein who lost his right arm during WW I. On the piano Hélène Tysman (29) who finishes her final exam at the LISZT UNIVERSITY with this concert.

The concert took place at the Neue Weimarhalle on December 8th, 2011

Maurice Ravel - Miroirs
"Miroirs" (Reflections) is a suite for solo piano written by French impressionist composer Maurice Ravel between 1904 and 1905, first performed by Ricardo Viñes in 1906.
Around 1900, Maurice Ravel joined a group of innovative young artists, poets, critics, and musicians referred to as Les Apaches or "hooligans", a term coined by Ricardo Viñes to refer to his band of "artistic outcasts". To pay tribute to his fellow artists, Ravel began composing Miroirs in 1904 and finished it the following year. Movements 3 and 4 were subsequently orchestrated by Ravel, while Movement 5 was orchestrated by Percy Grainger, among other.
Miroirs has five movements, each dedicated to a member of Les Apaches:
1. "Noctuelles" ("Night Moths") - Dedicated to Léon-Paul Fargue, Noctuelles is a highly chromatic work, maintaining a dark, nocturnal mood throughout. The middle section is calm with rich, chordal melodies, and the recapitulation takes place a fifth below the first entry.
2. "Oiseaux tristes" ("Sad Birds") - Dedicated to Ricardo Viñes, this movement represents a lone bird whistling a sad tune, after which others join in. The rambunctious middle section is offset by a solemn cadenza which brings back the melancholy mood of the beginning.
3. "Une barque sur l'océan" ("A boat on the Ocean") - Dedicated to Paul Sordes, the piece recounts a small boat as it sails upon the waves of the ocean. Arpeggiated sections and sweeping melodies imitate the flow of ocean currents. It is the longest piece of the set, and, with the exception of Alborada del Gracioso, the most technically difficult.
4. "Alborada del gracioso" ("The Gracioso's Aubade") - Dedicated to Michel-Dimitri Calvocoressi, Alborada is a technically challenging piece that incorporates Spanish musical themes into its complicated melodies.
5. "La vallée des cloches" ("The Valley of Bells") - Dedicated to Maurice Delage, the piece evokes the sounds of various bells through its use of sonorous harmonies.

Pianist: Jean-Efflam Bavouzet

Ravel - Piano Works I
Performed by Pascal Rogé
Year of recording: 1994

0:00 Sonatine I
4:40 Sonatine II
8:06 Sonatine III
11:53 Prélude
13:29 Pavane pour une infante défunte
19:43 Menuet sur le nom d'Haydn
21:29 Menuet antique
27:45 Le tombeau de Couperin I
30:41 Le tombeau de Couperin II
34:38 Le tombeau de Couperin III
39:52 Le tombeau de Couperin IV
43:03 Le tombeau de Couperin V
48:13 Le tombeau de Couperin VI
51:54 A la manière de Chabrier
53:50 A la manière de Borodine

Ravel - Piano Works II
Performed by Pascal Rogé
Year of recording: 1994

0:00 Gaspard de la nuit "Ondine"
6:25 Gaspard de la nuit "Le gibet"
13:02 Gaspard de la nuit "Scarbo"
21:28 Valses nobles et sentimentales: Modéré – très franc
22:46 Valses nobles et sentimentales: Assez lent – avec une expression intense
25:20 Valses nobles et sentimentales: Modéré
26:30 Valses nobles et sentimentales: Assez animé
27:46 Valses nobles et sentimentales: Presque lent – dans un sentiment intime
29:20 Valses nobles et sentimentales: Assez vif
29:56 Valses nobles et sentimentales: Moins vif
32:37 Valses nobles et sentimentales: Epilogue: lent
37:24 Jeux d'eau
43:15 Miroirs: Noctuelles ("Night Moths")
48:16 Miroirs: Oiseaux tristes ("Sad Birds").
52:11 Miroirs: Une barque sur l'océan ("A Boat on the Ocean")
59:30 Miroirs: Alborada del gracioso ("Morning Song of the Jester")
1:05:56 Miroirs: La vallée des cloches ("The Valley of Bells")

Ravel - Walter Gieseking (1956) Complete piano works
0:00 : Pavane pour une infante défunte
6:00 : Menuet antique
11:46 : Jeux d'eau
16:25 : Sonatine - I. Modéré
20:41 : II. Mouvement de menuet
24:01 : III. Animé
27:35 : Miroirs - I. Noctuelles
31:54 : II. Oiseaux tristes
35:20 : III. Une barque sur l'océan
40:44 : IV. Alborada del Gracioso
46:38 : V. La vallée des cloches
51:37 : Prélude
52:58 : Gaspard de la Nuit - I. Ondine
59:01 : II. Le Gibet
01:04:49 : III. Scarbo
01:13:49 : Menuet sur le nom de Haydn
01:15:52 : A la manière de Borodine
01:17:23 : A la manière de Chabrier
01:19:26 : Valses nobles et sentimentales
01:32:05 : Le Tombeau de Couperin - I. Prélude
01:35:21 : II. Fugue
01:39:30 : III. Forlane
01:45:15 : IV. Rigaudon
01:48:27 : V. Menuet
01:53:45 : VI. Toccata
Maurice Ravel - Daybreak (Daphnis et Chloé)
Daphnis et Chloé is a ballet with music by Maurice Ravel. Ravel described it as a "symphonie choréographique" (choreographic symphony). The scenario was adapted by Michel Fokine from an eponymous romance by the Greek writer Longus thought to date from around the 2nd century AD. Scott Goddard published a contemporary commentary that discussed the changes to the story that Fokine made to prepare a workable ballet scenario.The story concerns the love between the goatherd Daphnis and the shepherdess Chloé. The ballet is in one act and three scenes.

Ravel began work on the score in 1909 after a commission from Sergei Diaghilev. It was premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris by his Ballets Russes on June 8, 1912. The orchestra was conducted by Pierre Monteux, the choreography was by Michel Fokine, and Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina danced the parts of Daphnis and Chloe. Léon Bakst designed the original sets.

The work is written for a large orchestra consisting of piccolo, 2 flutes (2nd flute also doubling piccolo), alto flute, 2 oboes, English horn, E-flat clarinet, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, tam-tam, wind machine, triangle, bass drum, field drum, castanets, tambourine, celesta, crotales, glockenspiel, 2 harps, wordless choir and strings in eight parts.When Diaghilev took the ballet to London in 1914, he omitted the chorus, which prompted Ravel to send an angry letter to The Times newspaper (see editions of June 9, 10 and 17).

At almost an hour long, Daphnis et Chloé is Ravel's longest work. In spite of the ballet's time length, a small number of musical leitmotifs gives musical unity to the score.The music, some of the composer's most passionate, is widely regarded as some of Ravel's best, with extraordinarily lush harmonies typical of the impressionist movement in music. Even during the composer's lifetime, contemporary commentators described this ballet as his masterpiece for orchestra.He extracted music from the ballet to make two orchestral suites, which can be performed with or without the chorus. The second of the suites, which includes much of the last part of the ballet and concludes with the "Danse generale", is particularly popular. When the complete work is itself performed live, it is more often in concerts than in staged productions.

Performed by:Philharmonia Orchestra
Conductor:Geoffrey Simon

Daphnis et Chloé - Ravel - Dutoit
Daphnis et Chloé (1909 - 1912)
Ballet in three parts

Montreál Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Charles Dutoit

Cover image: set design for the premiere of the ballet (1912), by Léon Bakst.

Maurice Ravel - Pavane for Dead Princess
Maurice Ravel - "Le tombeau de Couperin" by Angela Hewitt
Angela Hewitt performs a live concert for the Royal Conservatory of Music at Toronto's Koerner Hall.
Maurice Ravel: Rapsodie Espagnole - Louis Lortie And Hélène Mercier, Piano 4-Hands
Ravel "Rhapsodie espagnole" Boston Symphony Orchestra -- Seiji Ozawa
Ravel - Rapsodie espagnole - Barenboim
West–Eastern Divan Orchestra
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

London, Proms 2014

Ravel - Ma mere l'oye
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
Myung-Whun Chung
Feb 25, 2010
Ravel: La Valse / Bernstein · Orchestre National de France
  Classical Music Timeline

Instruments Through the Ages

Classical Music History - Composers and Masterworks