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

French Horn

The French horn is one of the most beautiful and charming instruments of the modern orchestra. It consists of a spiral tubing of silver or copper 3.7 meters long in a compact circular form. A member of the family of brass, it is known for its warm, bland sound, but it can also produce high tones. It is also called a double horn because of its ability to render the sound of two horns on one. 

All brass produce imposing and stimulating sounds. They have accompanied armies in battles and are still used in the fanfare of public ceremonies and parades. These instruments are suitable when strong and decent sound is required.The French horn had a prominent place in the brass family, but its limited scope forbade it from becoming an effective artistic tool and limited it to producing a range of sounds when needed. 

Everything changed in 1815 with the discovery of the valve. The new valve system allowed the brass to extend the range and accuracy of their tones. The musicians also discovered that by inserting their hand into the "bell" they could create an extra range of tones, although the quality was not very good.

This transformation affected the French horn first and foremost. Descended from the french hunting horn, the instrument was nothing but a piece of spiral tube that ended up in a funnel ("bell"). With the introduction of valves, however, the horn could produce a wider and more qualitative sound spectrum that opened the way for the opera, to which it was introduced by the French composer François-Joseph Gossec in 1827.

The French horn is now an important member of the orchestra. It enriches the sound with subtle harmonies and combines comfortably with the wooden lungs and even with the strings, giving the orchestra a warm, harmonious sound.

The idyllic style of the horn

The extensive use of horns in Bruckner's Romantic Symphony highlights the romantic impressions the instrument evoked in many other composers.

Back in the 18th century - while the real classical period still lasted - Mozart maintained the correlation of horn and hunting in the flashy finale of his horn concertos. 

In the early 19th century, Beethoven emphasized the instrument's most heroic sound in Scherzo's Trio of his Heroic Symphony.

Since then, composers have often used the horn, either to submit the atmosphere of the countryside (Weber's Free-Shooter overture) or to create a climate of magic (Oberon overture of the same composer) or again, to interpret a strong or powerful note (the call of Siegfried's horn in Wagner's great operatic circle Der Ring des Nibelungen).

The horn, in its entire range - from its tender, bland tone to its piercing bronze sound - continues to fascinate the composers of our century. For example, in Benjamin Britten's Serenata for Tenor, Horn and Strings, the trumpeting of a "natural" or old hunting horn (without valves) yields the appropriate poetic mood.

How the French horn works

The spiral copper tube of the French horn is long and narrow and ends in a funnel (the "bell"). It has four valves, three of which, when pressed, open tubes that lower the tone. The longer the tube, the lower the sound. But the fourth valve raises the tone by blocking a section of the pipes. Thus the French horn has a unique ability compared to the other instruments to produce low and high tones.

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