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

Harpsichord


The harpsichord has been sounding for about six hundred years. It's a keyboard instrument, but its strings are stimulated in a nocturnal way and not by hammering like on the piano. The sound produced is characteristic and easily recognized.

When the harpsichord first appeared, it immediately became beloved and its reputation spread throughout Europe. With the begining of the 16th century it became extremely popular and the composers used it in almost every organic combination. It served more as an accompaniment, providing the harmonious substrate, rather than as a solo instrument.

The body of the harpsichord has the shape of a wing. For each note there are two or more strings - the performer can choose how many are used at a time, allowing the instrument to produce loud and soft sounds. Some later instruments used a mechanism to change the volume, opening and closing some grilles on the body of the instrument, allowing the sound to strengthen. Usually the harpsichords have two, sometimes three, keyboards that each produce a different toss quality.

Around the end of the 18th century, the harpsichord began to lose its popularity as the piano developed. For about a hundred years it remained forgotten. In this century, however, the harpsichord knows a kind of rebirth.

How the harpsichord works

The operation of the keyboards is mechanical. When the performer presses a key, its opposite end (inside the instrument) lifts a pen attached to a thin elongated wood or plastic, the yoke, which hits the string.

An escape mechanism allows the yoke to return to its original position without re-strikeing the string. A mechanism also adapted to the yoke, moves a pillow dressed in felt, the silencer, which touches the string, interrupts its tone and stops the sound of the note.

The pen, originally made of feather or leather, is now made of plastic.



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