Joseph Maurice Ravel is a French composer (7 March 1875 — 28 December 1937), best known for his Bolero, despite his considering it a minor piece of work and joking that it had "no music in it".
He's a cornerstone in the Impressionist movement of music, along with his fellow composer, Claude Debussy, though neither of them considered themselves as Impressionists, and were actually offended by the label. Nevertheless, his music is considered to contain very colourful tones and sounds, flows very freely, and is very atmospheric, like a piece of Impressionist painting. He also wrote other pieces that are considered best as Neo-Classicalnote . Regardless, he's considered as one of the major figures of early 20th century classical music, and is widely popular among listeners for his lush and beautiful, yet controllednote musical landscapes.
Notable pieces include Jeux d'eau, Daphnis et Chloe, Pavane pour une infante défunte, Le Tombeau de Couperinnote , and the Piano Concerto in G Majornote . He wasn't quite prolific, but was able to build international fame because most of his music was widely acclaimed, both by serious critics and popular listeners. One of the last great composers faithful to the old classical style, before everything classical becomes either atonal, serial or minimalist. He was also a great supporter of Jazz, considering it to be worthy of being an artful musical genre, and the national music of the United States. After the death of Debussy, he was the greatest French composer of his period.
He was a fairly reticent individual, like his music. Interestingly known to have no (known) romantic or sexual relationships, much to the composer's chagrin and loneliness, although he was surrounded by a rather large circle of faithful friends and followers, who would later support his last four years when he was affected by a neurological illness that prevented him from playing or writing any other music. After a failed operation, he died after falling into a coma. His death was greatly and unanimously grieved in the artistic circle - a year after his death, the Revue Musicale published a special edition containing around 100 articles paying homage to the late composer.
He was also an accomplished orchestrator - arguably one of the best in the history of western music; his orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky's suite Pictures at an Exhibition is arguably better known than the piano-only original.
Tropes that apply to Maurice Ravel:
- Classical Mythology: The inspiration for the ballet (and two concert suites) Daphnis et Chloe.
- Genre Deconstruction: The waltz genre gets deconstructed in La Valse. It really shows in the music toward the end, the waltz is increasingly discordant in its harmony and disjointed in its rhythm and tempo, and the ending is left unresolved. Although Ravel states otherwise, you'd be forgiven to think that this is all a portrayal of 19th Century Vienna and its eventual destruction in World War I.
- Last Note Nightmare: "Bolero" can come across as this. The last time the melody comes in, it is stronger, with much of the orchestra playing the theme, or counter melodies that seem wild. In some recordings, this section comes across as significantly louder. Some of the stated counter melodies also change the chords to dissonant ones. The song is major until then.
- Mundane Made Awesome: His "Boléro" is in essence just one melody repeated over and over again for 15 minutes, but it's one of the most popular and exciting compositions of all time.
- Name and Name: "Daphnis And Chloe".
- Nursery Rhyme / Fractured Fairy Tale: Forms the basis of the ballet suite ''Ma Mère l'Oye," aka "Mother Goose."
- Progressive Instrumentation: "Boléro" starts with a flute and keeps adding more and more instruments, in essence just one melody repeated over and over again for 15 minutes.
Maurice Ravel in popular culture
- Frank Zappa named him in his influences list on his Freak Out album. He also covered "Boléro" on his album The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life (1991).
- The "Boléro" is the Signature Scene of the animated classic Allegro non Troppo, where it depicts the evolution of dinosaurs all marching to the boléro (a spoof of Fantasia's sequence for The Rite of Spring).
- In Blake Edwards' film Ten the "Boléro" is used for a seduction scene.
- In the MASH Season 8 episode "Morale Victory", a young concert pianist loses the use of his right hand due to an injury. Winchester uses Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand to convince him that his career is not over.
- Ravel appeared in season 11 of Big Finish Doctor Who's Jago & Litefoot range.
- In the 1984 Winter Olympics, British figure skating duo Jayne Torvell and Christopher Dean skated to Boléro in the free dance. It won them the gold medal, having been awarded 12 perfect 6.0s and 6 5.9 scores, which included artistic scores of 6.0 from all judges.