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

Saint-Saëns - Danse Macabre, Op. 40

The deadly forms of this work reflect the gloomy mood presented by the Danse Macabre of Saint-Saëns.

Saint-Saëns's defense of new ideas in music wasn't just theoretical. He was responsible for many musical modernities. A perfect example of these modernities is the symphonic poem he developed with his friend and hero Franz Liszt. Saint-Saëns was the first Frenchman to compose in this form.

The Danse Macabre is one of his most popular symphonic poems. He processes a traditional history and paints it with great emotional depth with the virtuosity of the instruments and orchestra. The subject of death represents a skeleton that leads the living to the tomb and has its roots in the symbolism of the Middle Ages. In the 19th century this theme had developed into a midnight feast of resurrected skeletons.

The composition of Saint-Saëns originally wanted to be the musical version of a modern French poem, showing Death playing the violin in the icy courtyard of a church, while the skeletons of the dead stand up and dance its demonic melody.

Saint-Saens's innate ability to dramatize music appears more than ever in this macabre version of a traditional story. The clever orchestration that produces a universally creepy effect is an element of his legendary talent.

The work begins with slow, careful, distinct notes that announce the advent of midnight and the macabre result is achieved almost immediately by a slow waltz on the solo violin. The swirling melody accelerates as the instruments combine to create the sense of death's triumph over mortals. Then suddenly, an oboe that mimics the cock's lap at dawn announces the advent of the dawn light. The skeletons return to the graves as Death acknowledges that his time has passed.

When the French audience first heard the Danse Macabre in 1875, they did not appreciate the modernity of Saint-Saëns and greeted the work with such noisy boos that the composer's elderly mother fainted. Today it is considered one of his most popular works.