Classical KUSC


Ravel Photo Essay

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 3/23/2015 12:30:00 AM
Ravel's family heritage can be traced to the Collogessous-Saleve, a village in France's Haute-Savoie, home to Ravel's grandfather Aime Ravel. Aime moved his family to Versoix, outside of Geneva, and became a Swiss citizen. Ravel's father, Pierre Joseph Ravel, was born there in 1832, one of five children. He pursued a career as an engineer, and would eventually play a role in France's developing automobile industry. He also maintained an interest in music. Ravel's mother, Marie Delouart, was of Basque descent. She spoke French well, but never learned to write it. Ravel was her first child, born when she was thirty-five. Her second and final child was Edouard, and it was no secret in the Ravel home that Maurice was his mother's favorite. She is said to have sung Spanish folk melodies to him in his cradle, and mother and child were very close all their life together. Three years after her death, when Ravel was thirty-nine, he wrote to a friend, "My despair increases daily. I'm thinking about it even more, since I have resumed work, that I no longer have this dear silent presence enveloping me with her infinite tenderness, which was, I see it now more than ever, my only reason for living." At a time and place when school attendance was not mandatory, Ravel did not attend school until he entered the Paris Conservatory at age fourteen. In matters of literature, history, science, etc., he was home-schooled. But his parents are said to have been sensitive, devoted and intelligent people, and Ravel grew up with a keen curiosity for a wide range of interests. His fourteen years at the Conservatory have been described as "largely marked by one academic failure after another, but nonetheless a time of immense growth." As a pianist Ravel played a wide variety of 19th-century piano music, including works by Mendelssohn, Franck, Rimsky-Korsakov, Balakirev and Borodin, and analyzed the standard works of the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods, notably the music of Mozart.
Ravel's lifelong friend the pianist Marguerite Long once asked and answered the question, "What place had Ravel for love? It seemed that there as none. One day I said to him: 'Maurice, you ought to marry. Nobody understands and loves children as you do. Get rid of your hermit life and have a real home.' Ravel replied: 'Love never rises above the licentious.'

This 'licentiousness' he was willing, within moderation, to allow to some street-walking Venus; what remained beyond that would have turned his life upside-down and he did not find the idea an encouraging one. One evening Ravel, as timid men sometimes do, asked a woman he had known for a long time to marry him. She burst out laughing and said to all and sundry: 'Ravel is crazy; he wants to marry me.' From that time he abandoned all idea of disrupting his solitude."

Ravel explained his reluctance to marry this way: "You see, an artist has to be very careful when he wants to marry someone, because an artist never realizes his capacity for making his companion miserable. He's obsessed by his creative work and by the problems it poses. He lives a bit like a daydreamer and it's no joke for the woman he lives with. One always has to think of that when one wants to get married." Hermit life is not entirely accurate. From age 46 until his death at 62, Ravel lived at his villa Le Belvédère Montfort l'Amaury, with ten cats to which he spoke "cat language."

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  1. robert von bargen posted on 09/01/2012 08:52 AM
    Just discovered the blog, but have enjoyed your morning show for years. The clock radio is set for 0730 at KUSC and my wife spends more time with you in the morning than she does with me! (I'm the early riser who makes the coffee etc to get her off to work.)
  2. Spero W. Theodore posted on 05/13/2013 05:24 PM
    You will either love or hate this:

    C, E-flat and G go into a bar. The bartender says, "Sorry, we don't serve
    minors," and E-flat leaves. C and G have an open fifth between them. After
    a few drinks, the fifth is diminished and G is out flat. F comes in and
    tries to augment the situation, but is not sharp enough. D comes into the
    bar and heads straight for the bathroom saying, "Excuse me, I'll just be a

    A comes into the bar, but the bartender is not convinced that this relative
    of C is not a minor and sends him out. Then the bartender notices a B-flat
    hiding at the end of the bar and shouts, "Get out now. You're the seventh
    minor I've found in this bar tonight."

    Next night, E-flat, not easily deflated, comes into the bar in a 3-piece
    suit with nicely shined shoes. The bartender says: "You're looking pretty
    sharp tonight. Come on in. This could be a major development." Sure enough, E-flat takes off his suit and everything else and stands there au naturel.

    Eventually, C, who had passed out under the bar the night before, begins to
    sober up and realizes in horror that he's under a rest. So, C goes to trial, is convicted of contributing to the diminution of a minor and sentenced to 10 years of DS without Coda at an up scale correctional facility. The conviction is overturned on appeal, however, and C is found innocent of any wrongdoing, even accidental, and that all accusations to the contrary are bassless.

    The bartender decides, however, that since he's only had tenor so patrons,
    the soprano out in the bathroom and everything has become alto much treble, he needs a rest and closes the bar.
    1. Robert Dennis posted on 10/08/2014 04:44 PM
      @Spero W. Theodore You kept to the theme very, puns and all. Bravo.
  3. Alexandra leslie posted on 10/09/2013 10:59 AM
    Wonderful blog. Thank you.
    This morning (Wednesday) you quoted one of the recent Nobel prizewinners
    who told of his bassoon lessons, etc. I am a piano teacher an would love to send that story to my students but I missed the scientist's name. Please print it.
    Alexandra leslie
    Santa Barbara
    1. KUSC posted on 10/11/2013 04:04 PM
      @Alexandra leslie Hi Alexandra, the scientist is Thomas C. Südhof, Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry.
  4. Craig Davis posted on 05/22/2015 08:55 AM
    I just listened to the Alfred Brendle recording of "Fur Elise". It's very disturbing to me (in my childhood who, of course, memorized it) in the way that he (Brendle) plays the "D" , fourth note from the end of the main phrase, instead of the "E" that Beethoven wrote. The "D" should be retained til the very end of the piece. Also, whenever a latin piece is sung, like "O magnum mysterium". The "G" is silent. Same with "Agnus Dei". Just saying. Love your show!
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