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 Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody No.14 (Fantasia on Hungarian Folk Melodies)

Portrait of Franz Liszt with
Hungarian national costume.
In 1852, while living in Weimar, Franz Liszt developed one of the Hungarian Rhapsodies he had composed for piano, into the Hungarian Fantasy for piano and orchestra. The folk music that Liszt uses here is actually more influenced by Gypsy music than by the dances and songs of the Mayars, which are the real music of his native country Hungary.

The full title of Liszt's Hungarian Fantasy, Fantasia on Hungarian Folk Melodies, is rather incorrect. Almost all of the themes Liszt uses come from the gypsy orchestras he listened to in Vienna, but these musicians often played melodies adapted by other composers. Liszt knew little about the music of the Mayars, the tribe that had travelled from Asia in the old days to eventually settle in Hungary.

Those who revealed the ancient songs and dances of the Mayars as the true national Hungarian music were two composers younger than Liszt, Bella Bartok and Zoltan Kontoyi.

Nevertheless, Liszt offered a lot by focusing attention on the richness of popular music, highlighting the momentum, color and emotion of this folk music in his work and especially in this Fantasia.

The music begins in a melancholy mood, with the horns and bassoons playing in a minor tone. The melody is a adaptation of a Hungarian folk song "Mohac's Field".

After a few virtuoso passages, piano and orchestra again present the purpose, this time in a major tone. Some gypsy-style melodies appear with an additional reference to the opening tune. A quiet inoculated (interlude) prepares the most exciting theme - piano and orchestra gallop towards the end, with a final reminder of the original melody of the Hungarian folk song "Mohac's Field".


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