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

Mendelssohn - Symphony No. 4, "Italian", in A Major, Op. 90

 

"The Bay of Naples" by William James Muller
When Mendelssohn visited Naples, he was shocked by the great poverty he saw, but he liked the Neapolitan saltarello dance, on which he based the main theme of his "Italian" Symphony in A Major.


At the urging of his good friend, the German poet Goethe, Mendelssohn made a long journey to Italy in 1830-31. He arrived in October and was berested by the noise and vitality of the country. He visited Venice and then Rome, where he was impressed by a procession of cardinals and a choir at the church of St. Peter's.The echo of that chorus can be heard in the second part of the symphony.

Mendelssohn was shocked by the poverty she saw in Naples, but fascinated by its folk dances. The impetuous saltarello at the end of the symphony is directly influenced by these local folk dances.

Movements:

Ι. Allegro vivace

The first part, Allegro vivace, begins with a cheerful and energetic outburst that soon subsides. After a transitional part the second theme is introduced. It is a wonderful illuminating piece that in turn prepares the return of the first theme with variations. Then it is repeated with subtle variations. The part ends with a wonderful crescendo and a final bow.


ΙΙ. Andante con moto

The second part, Andante con moto, completely alters the mood. Oboe, bassoons and violas, supported by soft string pizzicatti, introduce a charmed melody. For a moment the melody repeats itself distantly and a glowing theme appears in a major tone to disappear soon after. Variations follow the main theme before finishing the part with a gentle splash of deep strings.



ΙΙΙ. Con moto moderato

The third part, Con moto moderato, is a cute piece reminiscent of a minuet. Here, a sense of mystery is added, when an attractive trio of horns knocks on the door asking to enter. After the trio of horns reappear once again, the main theme of the minuet comes back short and fades, finishing the part.



IV. Saltarello: Presto 

The last part, Saltarello:Presto, is a fast and lively place based on a Neapolitan dance similar to tarantella. Almost immediately the dance begins its frenetic rhythm, at first quietly and then with gradual increase in intensity. Somewhere, the rhythm relaxes, but then the almost infernal swirl of dance reappears in strings and is scanned by the entire orchestra. At the end of the last part, the music returns for a while to the original theme before returning to the dance.



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