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

Bedřich Smetana - Libuše Overture

The beautiful Prague where Smetana came to study. He'd rather watch the concerts than go to school.

In 1848 liberal revolutions broke out throughout Europe. Most of them crashed, but their effect gave ordinary people an unprecedented pride in their national identity. This feeling was particularly strong in Bohemia, where the Czechs were for centuries under the rule of the Habsburgs, the monarchs of Austria.

This revival of patriotism was conveyed by Bedřich Smetana to the music of Libuše's three-act festival opera, which he wrote from 1869 to 1872. As Smetana was an excellent craftsman of the symphonic poem, his operas had freshness and dramatic intensity.

Although deeply influenced by Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt, he created a highly personal, sensational music that praised the spirit of the Czech people. The opera refers to the legendary events that led to the establishment of the first Royal Bohemian Přemyslid dynasty in the 13th century.

The opera was not just a stage work, but rather an epic destined to be presented in great festive occasions. "I regard this opera as my most perfect dramatic work," Smetana himself said of Libuše. Seventy years later, when the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia during World War II, they realized that opera was still axing the patriotism of the Czechs and banned it.

The imposing fanfare of the trumpets, which resonates at the beginning of the Libuše Overture, invokes the legendary royal world which is also the theme of opera. However, the softer and more lyrical part of the flute and the oboe that follows, states that Libuše refers to both human passions and royal magnificence and heroic feats.

The orchestra picks up the lyrical theme from the woodwinds and develops it by adding new elements of royal grandeur, to return to a melancholy mood. The initial fanfare sounds distant before the dramatic return of the orchestra, announced by the rhythmic beat of the drums. This intensely patriotic and moving work ends with a serene note.