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

Chopin - Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Opus 23

The famous monument to Chopin, Parc Monceau, Paris.

The ballades of the Polish poet Adam Bernard Mickiewicz inspired Chopin to compose the four Ballades, each telling a musical story. The first, Opus 23, took four years to complete (1831-1835) and coincided with Chopin's arrival in Paris and his acceptance by the city's good society.

The poet Adam Bernard Mickiewicz.
Unlike most of Chopin's pianistic compositions, which focus on unexpected changes in mood and contrasts, Ballade No.1 in G minor has a narrative, almost epic quality. In this respect it is consistent with literary ballades, such as the epic 17th century poem, Faery Queen (Fairy Queen) by Edmond Spencer. Many regard Chopin's four piano ballads as the most mature and refined part of his wide-ranging work.

The introduction provides the backdrop, which is full of a sense of tragedy and premonition. This contrasts with the first melody that is both lyrical and simple. Observe the use of ceases and subtle qualms in melody, which characterize the dramaturgical techniques of storytelling. Sometimes the narrative emerges in an escalating cry, while others retreats into a quiet whisper.

The main melody recalls the erotic supplication of a knight trying to win the love of his beloved. His erotic suggestions begin politely, later becoming more passionate until the second theme introduces a more tender note. The knight becomes more confident as the music becomes more robust. But then the tragic mood returns as the knight attempts to exterminate his mortal rival in battle. As the music progresses we imagine him shaking and getting up again for a while only to find a tragic end in the hands of his ferocious opponent.