Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)


COTW-200601Fairy Tales2006031320060320

Donald Macleod visits Le Belvédère, Ravel's aptly named house in the French town of Montfort l'Amaury, which has a spectacular view of the Rambouillet forest.

That's the reason he fell in love with this quirky little house, once described as being shaped like a wedge of Camembert cheese.

Ravelian style abounds on every available shelf or table top.

Even the piano is covered with some of the hundreds of miniature and quirky objects Ravel collected.

Donald Macleod looks at Ravel's fascination with childhood and fairytales.

Toi, le coeur de la Rose (l'Enfant et les sortilèges)

Françoise Ogeas (mezzo soprano)

RTF National Orchestra

Lorin Maazel (conductor)

Songs for Unaccompanied Mixed Chorus

Groupe Vocal de France

John Alldis (conductor)

Sonata for Violin and Cello (Allegro)

Kennedy (violin)

Lyn Harrell (cello)

Ma Mère l'Oye

Berlin Philharmonic

Pierre Boulez (conductor)

Gaspard de la Nuit (Scarbo)

Angela Hewitt (piano)

That's the reason why he fell in love with this quirky little house, once described as being shaped like a wedge of Camembert cheese.

COTW-200602Foreign Culture2006031420060321

There's more than one edition of the classic Arabian tale One Thousand and One Nights on the bookshelves of Ravel's home in Montfort l'Amaury.

Ravel used the heroine Shéhèrazade as the central character in his very first opera project, and returned to the subject for some orchestral songs five years later.

Ravel was able to incorporate these exotic flavours into his original compositions without locating them in any precise geographical way, or in many cases drawing on any direct personal experience.

He didn't visit Spain, for example, until 15 years after he wrote most of his Spanish-infused music, and when he came to write the Chansons Madécasses, neither the author of the prose texts Evariste Parny or Ravel ever visited the island.

Cats Duet (L'Enfant et les sortilèges)

Jane Berbié (soprano)

Camille Maurane (baritone)

National Orchestra of RTF

Lorin Maazel (conductor)

Alborada del gracioso (Miroirs)

Vlado Perlemuter (piano)

Asie (Shéhèrazade)

Maria Ewing (soprano)

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Simon Rattle (conductor)

Overture to Shéhèrazade

New York Philharmonic

Pierre Boulez (conductor)

How's Your Mug excerpt (L'Enfant et les sortilèges)

Jacqueline Miura (mezzo-contralto)

Mark Tucker (tenor)

London Symphony Orchestra

André Previn (conductor)

Chansons Madécasses

Jessye Norman (soprano)

Michel Debost (flute)

Renaud Fonatanarosa (cello).


Close by to Ravel's house in Montfort l'Amaury is the Rambouillet forest.

Ravel, who was a life-long insomniac, regularly went for long walks there, sometimes in the middle of the night, listening to all the woodland creatures and noises as he went.

According to his friends, Ravel possessed an empathetic appreciation for animals and nature.

Donald Macleod surveys some musical testaments to this opinion.

Insects and Frogs' Music (l'Enfant et les sortilèges)

National Orchestra of RTF

Lorin Maazel (conductor)

Le paon, Le grillon, Le Martin-Pêcheur (Histoires naturelles)

Jane Bathori (soprano/piano)

Sonata for Violin and Piano

Chantal Juillet (violin)

Pascal Rogé (piano)

Oiseaux Tristes (Miroirs)

Daphnis and Chlöe (3rd part)

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Simon Rattle (conductor)

COTW-200604Excursions Into The Past2006031620060323

Rococo and Baroque are just a couple of the descriptions that visitors applied to Ravel's house at Montfort l'Amaury.

Showing them his impressive paintings, he would then delight in watching their surprise as he confessed they were all fakes.

This brand of pastiche and fascination with the past finds its way into Ravel's music.

He used both classical forms and tales, but applied his own imagination and invention to produce pieces that are unmistakably his own.

D'Anne jouant de l'espinette (Deux épigrammes)

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone)

Hartmut Höll (piano)

Piano Trio (Finale)

Joshua Bell (violin)

Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano)

Stephen Isserlis (cello)

Excerpt from Alcyone

Mireille Delunsch (soprano)

Béatrice Uria-Monzon (mezzo-soprano)

Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse

Michel Plasson (conductor)

Le Tombeau de Couperin

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Seiji Ozawa (conductor).

COTW-200605Machinery Of Ravel's Mind2006031720060324

Ravel was a perfectionist who aimed for the highest technical achievement.

His passion for all things mechanical was realised in his house at Montfort l'Amaury where he collected hundreds of miniature working models and toys.

Those he didn't buy for himself were brought as presents by the many friends who visited him there.

His father was an engineer and inventor, and it was for him that Ravel wrote the first of his two operas, l'Heure espagnole, in which all the characters are obsessed by time.

By the time Ravel had completed his last orchestral works, the two piano concertos, his time was running out.

He was troubled by constant headaches, his insomnia worsened and he developed problems with his co-ordination.

The final years of his life were spent at his much loved home in Montfort l'Amaury.

Introduction and Scenes 1 and 2 (l'Heure Espagnole)

Jane Berbié (soprano)

Jean Giraudeau (tenor)

Gabriel Bacquier (bass-baritone)

National Orchestra of RTF

Lorin Maazel (conductor)

Il vecchio castello, Baba-Yaga, The Great Gates of Kiev (Pictures at an Exhibition)

Mussorgsky, orch.


Philadelphia Orchestra

Riccardo Muti (conductor)

Left Hand Piano Concerto

Krystian Zimerman (piano)

London Symphony Orchestra

Pierre Boulez (conductor)

Trois poèmes de Stephane Mallarmé

Felicity Lott (soprano)

Chamber Ensemble of Paris

Michel Plasson (conductor).

COTW-200606Mother: Spain And Visions Of Childhood2006032020090720

Donald Macleod surveys the music Ravel wrote in connection with the people around him, beginning with pieces associated with the composer's mother and the Basque heritage which was so important to him.

Vocalise-étude en forme de habanera/ Chanson populaires no 1: Chanson espagnole

COTW-200607Father: Industry And Craftsmanship2006032120090721

Donald Macleod surveys the music Ravel wrote in connection with the people around him.

Ravel's fascination with things mechanical and industrial was formed in the workshop of his father, an engineer and inventor.

Sites Auriculaires: Entre cloches

Stephen Coombs and Christopher Scott (pianos)

GAMUT cd 517

CD1 T6

L'Heure Espagnole (extract)

Jane Berbie (Concepcion)/ Jean Giraudeau (Torquemada)/ Gabriel Bacquier (Ramiro)/ Orchestre National de la R.T.F/ Lorin Maazel (cond)


CD1 T3

Gaspard de la nuit


Donald Macleod explores the importance for Ravel of the poets he read, and those he knew, in fin-de-siecle Montmartre.

Sainte and Sur l'herbe

COTW-200609Patrons And Slaves2006032320090723

Donald Macleod traces Ravel's sometimes troubled relationships with those who commissioned him.

Aoua! [Chansons Madecasses]

COTW-200610 LASTComposers2006032420090724

Donald Macleod looks at Ravel in the context of his contemporaries, from those who influenced him to those who looked to him for inspiration.

Sérénade grotesque