Maurice Ravel -The Swiss Watchmaker

Maurice Ravel was born on March 7, 1875, in the small fishing village of Ciboure in the Basque region, near the Franco-Spanish border.  His father, Pierre-Joseph, was a Frenchman of Swiss descent. Pierre-Joseph, a distinguished engineer, met and fell in love with his future wife, a young and beautiful Basque, Marie Delouart, at the time she worked on the Spanish railways.  A few months after Maurice's birth, the family moved from Ciboure to Paris. The parents of Maurice Ravel, Pierre-Joseph Ravel and Marie Delouart. Maurice had a happy childhood. The parents encouraged their two children - Edouard was born in 1878 - to follow their vocation. Maurice's inclination was music. He started music lessons at the age of seven.  Unlike the parents of other composers, Pierre-Joseph viewed positively the prospect of a musical career and sent Maurice to the France's most important musical college, the Conservatoire de Paris in 1889. In the same year, the Paris Exhibition brought toget

Hector Berlioz - Les Francs-juges ("The Free Judges" or "The Judges of the Secret Court"), op. 3

Berlioz excruciatingly edited his operas to be accepted by the Paris audience.

Berlioz's music is primarily an expression of emotions, often at the expense of the "classical" form. He wanted his audience to experience the emotions he felt when he composed his works, rather than being impressed by the craftsmanship of his style. The result is an incredible and unique freedom of expression.

Les Francs-juges (translated as "The Free Judges" or "The Judges of the Secret Court") wanted it to be his greatest work. Berlioz began composing it when he was just 23 years old and spent many years of preparing it, constantly reviewing it to be accepted in the Paris operas. In the end, by accepting being defeated, he has fragmented his work. The introduction is the most extensive part of what's left.

The introduction does not lag behind in imposing or youthful momentum from the origina. He retains the eerie power of the terrible story of hero Lenor and his corrupt uncle, who plans to steal his throne and his beloved Amelie. Lenor is summoned to the undercover judges to hear his conviction, but is saved at the right time by the faithful Amelie accompanied by a group of trusted warriors.

Agony and premonition

Berlioz successfully conveys a sense of awe in the opening stages, as the slow rythm pace produces an atmosphere of suspense and emotion. The music creates an extremely convincing picture of the scoured judges preparing to deliver their harsh verdict.

The play is an exquisite example of Berlioz's psychosis with complex orchestrations. It combines a range of different melodies and rhythmic shapes to instantly create a set of emotions. A light, fast pace, for example, fools the listener that Lenor is safe, while sharp, menacing notes and otherworldly trombones interrupt creating tension.

For the dramatic intensity in his intrumental compositions, Berlioz is not hapless about the fascination that the opera exerted on him. In most of his music, as here, he uses the repetition of rhythms and small themes to present specific characters of feelings - a popular invention of 19th century opera - and it is the conflict between them that gives life to his music.