CHILL WITH RAVEL (Naxos: 8.556789)
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Chill With Ravel
Maurice Ravel was one of the most important French composers of the early 20th century. Bornin 1875 to a Swiss father and Basque mother, he inherited from his watchmaker father ameticulous attention to detail and from his mother an affinity with Spain and all things Spanish.
Aside from being the composer of some of the best known classical music - Bolero, Pavanepour une enfante defunte and Tzigane, for example - he is generally considered the finestorchestrator in musical history. Ravel combined his exceptional skill in orchestration with animpressive technical command of melody and harmony, writing in an appealing musical stylethat was entirely his own despite contemporary comparisons with Debussy, a composer thirteenyears his senior.
By the early years of the 20th century Ravel had begun to earn a reputation for himself as acomposer, in spite of the hostility of certain critics. He was to fail five times to win the importantPrix de Rome, the rejection of his final entry in 1905 causing a public scandal that led to theresignation of the director of the Conservatoire, who was succeeded by Faure.
During the war years Ravel served as a transport driver, his lack of weight excluding him fromthe more active form of military service he would have preferred. Illness and the death of hismother in 1916 both diminished his activity as a composer, but by 1920 he had completed thechoreographic poem La Valseand had started work on the operatic collaboration with Colettethat resulted in the delightful L'enfant et les sortil?¿ges.
The death of Debussy in 1918, followed six years later by the death of his teacher Faure, leftRavel as the leading French composer in the eyes of his contemporaries. Various commissionshelped to establish an international reputation that brought him honour abroad and the offer ofthe Legion d'honneur at home, a distinction he rejected. His career was tragically shortened bythe increasingly debilitating effects of what was later diagnosed as Pick's disease, and he diedin 1937 after an unsuccessful brain operation.