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

Beethoven - Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, "Pastoral" Symphony

The cover of beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony, published in 1808.
The cover of beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony, published in 1808.

wrote his "Pastoral" Symphony to praise the countryside, inspired by Heiligenstadt, his provincial refuge near Vienna. He settled there on the recommendation of one of his doctors, in the hope that this would improve his hearing. The joy he felt in the natural environment was only rivaled by his despair when he realized that his hearing would not improve. These strong feelings are expressed in the "Pastoral Symphony", which Beethoven composed at the same time as the Fifth Symphony, 1807-08.

Both symphonies were interpreted publicly for the first time, the same evening. 

Flooded with emotion, the symphony is an early example of romantic "program" music - creating stage and image with sounds - although he described it as "more an expression of emotions than painting."

The "Pastoral" Symphony is not as dramatic or grandiose as The Fifth Symphony, but in many ways it is just as revolutionary. Beethoven opened new horizons by composing five parts instead of the traditional four and joining the last three parts, without distinguishing the beginning and end of each of them. It is also the first purely "programmatic" symphony - where the music describes a series of scenes or events. In this case it is the countryside from which the agreement takes its name.

This symphony reveals Beethoven's personality. While living in Vienna, he used to take long walks in the surrounding forests and hills. He liked to wander alone in peace and quiet, where he did not have to talk to other people, especially at the time he was losing his hearing.

In addition to the name "Pastoral" mentioned in the entire symphony, each part of it has a descriptive title.


I. Allegro ma non tropo

The first part, Allegro ma non tropo, is described as "Awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the countryside" and the opening theme seems to breathe the cool fresh air of forests and meadows. The middle section is based on a small descendant scale which is heard in many folk songs.

II. Andante molto mosso

The second part, Andante molto mosso, is called "Scene by the brook". The melody submits the gentle flow of water to a stream. Towards the end of the part, Beethoven introduces bird chirping, like cuckoo, to the woodwinds.

III. Allegro

The third part, Allegro, is a "Merry gathering of country folk". It is in the rhythm of a Scherzo and represents a rustic dance. In "trio", the bassoon repeats the same three notes several times. Beethoven had apparently heard some old musicians play on the bagpipes only these notes and he uses them here in a humorous mood.

IV. Allegro

This "Merry gathering of country folk" is suddenly interrupted by "Thunder, Storm" approaching the fourth part, also Allegro, described by a tremolo playing and sharp fast sounds of string. The whole orchestra plays loudly as the storm breaks out. Heavy bangs and drum rolls are heard and the piercing sound of the piccolo is distinguished through the entire orchestra.

The Storm makes its cold and unexpected appearance, interrupting the festive dance with menacing, throes of sonic fluctuations heard from the deep strings. The drums appear calmly creating a distant tension. Soon, however, it changes to the click of lightning that is fast approaching. Here, as later in the harmonious sequence of the storm, we are presented with the concern and fear of animals expressed by the staccato rhythm of violins.

Suddenly, the storm erupts menacingly. The panic of animals and people as they run in search of shelter is felt through the frenetic activity of the string. Then come the lightning - a series of two staccato orchestral explosions. The first is supported by the drums making the repetitive note sound like an echo - as if the mountains echo.The activity intensifies as the rushing strings and drum rolls fluctuate, while the sporadic phrases between violins and woodwinds escalate.

Chaos prevails

While the strings rise and sink into a stormy wind, a penetrating piccolo emerges like a boiling pressure cooker. Meanwhile, the orchestra's subdued gusts are reminiscent of a torrential rain.

Eventually the storm subsides, the lightning becomes a distant hum, from which a hymnal melody emerges - a thank you song.

V. Allegretto

The storm recedes, helping away over the hills and the sun comes out again. The clarinet and then the horn announce the initial notes of a new theme. This piece that is perhaps the most hearty and beautiful of the symphony, Allegretto, is called "Shepherd's song. Cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm".