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

Antonin Dvořák - Symphony No.8 in G major, Op. 88

London in 1888, the year Dvořák's Symphony No.8 for the Philharmonic Society was first presented. The composer loved England and many of his important works were first performed there.

Starting in 1884, Antonín Leopold Dvořák visited England nine times, where his music won the admiration of the public and his concerts were extremely popular. During a trip in 1890, he directed the English premiere of Symphony No. 8, which he had composed between August and November, the previous year.

At the time, Dvořák was at a dispute with his publisher Fritz Simrock, who complained that he was losing money by investing in his compositions. That is why Symphony No. 8 was published in England in 1892 by Novello&Co., an organization led by Henry Littleton, the secretary of the London Philharmonic Society, who invited Dvořák to England for the first time.

He directed again the Symphony at Queen Hall in London with great success on March 19, 1896, during his last visit to England. This success ensured him financial comfort and allowed him to buy his holiday home in the village of Vysoká in Czechoslovakia.

Symphony No. 8 in G Major presents a significant difference from his early works. There is a clear rift with classical tradition, combined with a radically new approach to orchestration and thematic development.


Ι. Allegro con brio

The first part, Allegro con brio, shows plenty of melodies. Strings and brass begin with a broad theme which is soon followed by the flute's tweet. A brief escalation acts as a bridge to a lighter theme in the wooden wings. The brass are always present, but they are interrupted by flutes. Soon, the brass dominate the orchestra but it is the woodwinds that have the final say in the melody. The sound of the orchestra subsides as a bassoon sings its tune, which is taken over by the rest of the woodwinds with a substrate of the string pizzicato.


ΙΙ. Adagio

In the second part, Adagio, the strings underline the main theme, before the woodwinds are heard. Excerpts of the theme alternate between brass and woodwinds, before the oboe intervenes with a lively dance tune. Sweet violins then play the melody of oboe, while the woodwinds play the original theme of violins. The entire orchestra plays the theme, paving the way for a triumphant melody of brass. After a brief flute inoculating, a melancholy phrase is heard.


ΙΙΙ. Alegretto grazioso

In contrast, in the third part, Alegretto grazioso, the vitality of the start is like fresh breeze. However, Dvořák refuses to let the melody settle into a relaxed dance and the orchestra quickly intervenes and interrupts. The part ends with a melodic dash, typical of Dvořák's eccentric temperament.


IV. Allegro ma non troppo

The fourth part, Allegro ma non troppo, begins with a fanfare of trumpet that prepares a bold but passionate melody played by the cellos accompanied by the piccicato of double bass. The theme comes back, this time with more power, with the violins sounding loud. The impetuous mood that follows is a prelude to the composer's humor. As the part develops, the orchestra becomes more and more intensely transformed into a caricature of itself and sometimes becomes completely pompous, at some point the strings intervene as if they intend to impose order, the naughty woodwinds are suddenly removed and a new melody is heard from the strings. The cellos expose their theme for the last time, before an unexpected change in tonality leads to some less successful attempts to perform the melody from other instruments. But the full melody does not return and the orchestra resorts to one last pompous closing, a lively bohemian dance.