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

Franz Schubert - Symphony No. 8 in B minor, "Unfinished"

The dark and dramatic mood expressed in Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony is represented in this romantic setting, painted by his older brother, Ferdinand.

Schubert's Symphony No.8 puzzles why it's a masterpiece and why no one knows why he didn't complete it. By October 1822 he had finished the two opening parts and had started working on the third, the Scherzo. At this point he stopped and turned his attention to another work, the Wonderer Fantasie. The following year Schubert sent the unfinished score of the 8th Symphony to his friend Joseph Hüttenbrenner who gave it to his brother Anselm, who kept it for forty years.

In 1865, Hüttenbrenner was persuaded to assign Schubert's scores by Johann Ritter von Herbeck, director of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The Symphony was first performed in Vienna on September 17, 1865 in front of an ecstatic audience.

Around 1890, Symphony No. 8 acquired the nickname "Unfinished" and since then the fans have been wondering why Schubert didn't complete it. Some claim that Schubert linked its composition to the terrible mercury treatment he underwent for syphilis he got in early 1822. His desperation is reflected in the music - and it was perhaps emotionally too painful for the composer to complete it. Others feel that he just got tired of the work and continued with some other composition. This, after all, was common for Schubert - he left many of his other compositions unfinished.


Ι. Allegro moderato

The first movement, Allegro moderato, is in sonata form - a part in three interrelated sections - structured in a brilliant way, with a music of great dramatic intensity. It begins with a calm and rather restless theme in the cellos and double bass. Violins and violas appear with more restless play, accompanying a melody first heard by oboes and clarinets. This builds the first point of escalation. Here's a truly magical moment: bassoons and horns hold a long note and lead the music to a whole new tone.

The melody that follows is played on the cellos and then on the violins with a kindly pulsating, syncope chord and is one of the most beautiful and beloved melodies ever written. Shortened by more dramatic chords, he then returns to a fragmentary form, helping the music build another sensational escalation. The opening section where the main themes are introduced is repeated. The middle section begins in the same calm way on cellos and double bass, but their theme is now used to create a tempestuous piston before the music is led back to a repeat of the first section by the entire orchestra.

In a brief coda, Schubert repeats the first notes of the part, first in woodwinds, then in violins and finally in cellos and double bass. The part ends on a turbulent note.

ΙΙ. Andante con moto

The second part, Andante con moto, begins with a serene and peaceful mood greeting listeners with yet another wonderful melody in violins and violas, with pizzicatti in double bass and chords in bassoons and horns. The answer is given by all the pines while the strings play in identification.

A clarinet solo gently plays the second theme accompanied by the gentle sound of the strings. This leads to a more dramatic central episode. Schubert is working on the two main themes again before the new dramatic escalation. Crescendo is followed by a calm ending.