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

Georges Bizet - L’ Arlésienne, Suite No. 1

Page from the manuscript of the composition of Bizet L' Arlesienne.

In 1872 Bizet wrote the stage music for a work of love and tragedy in rural Provence, written by Alphonse Daudet. Based on a true story, he refers to two brothers: Fréderi, who is in love with a girl from Arles, and L’Innocent, his mentally retarded brother, who miraculously regains his intelligence after his brother's death.

The play was not very successful and a month after its first presentation, Bizet created this four-part suite for a concert. Music immediately became popular and is the form in which L’ Arlésienne is heard today.

Movements:

I. Prélude, Allegro deciso

The Prelude to this tragic drama begins with an old Provenian march played by strings and woodwinds, first separately and then in unisono. Here are three variations of the theme, before the entire orchestra plays this lively march in its original form.

The second part is slow, strangely excruciating and low-key serene. This is the musical theme of L’Innocent, the retarded spiritual boy of the original work, which is rendered by the charmed saxophone.

The Prelude concludes with the ominous and passionate theme of Fréderi, the young man who is in love with "girl from Arles". This is inserted from the violins before other sections take over and eventually the entire orchestra.


II. Minuet, Allegro giocoso

Minuet begins with strings in a light music full of cheer and joy. Then, after a rhythmic, lyrical part, the clarinet and the saxophone play a beautiful tune, while the violins hover in a mesmerizing 
contrapuntal melody. Everything is effortlessly and delightfully orchestrated. Towards the end of the part, the oboe sings a phrase and then the opening theme reappears. The part ends with a charming dialogue between strings and woodwings.


III. Adagietto

Adagietto is one of the finest parts of the suite. It depicts a youthful love that comes back to life after fifty years of separation and is full of courtesy and passion. It ends exquisitely with a serene, full-hearted phrase.


IV. Carillon, Allegro moderato

The sounds of the bell at the beginning of Carillon are disarmingly simple and announce the gathering of villagers preparing for the feast of the patron saint. The theme is repeated and changed before the introduction of a medium section, which includes a thoughtful melody in the flute. But while this melody is played by the flute and strings, the horns sound and gently lead the music back to Carillon's inaugural music, which ends with a resounding forte.




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