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

Antonín Dvořák - Symphony No. 9 in E minor "From the New World", Op. 95

America welcomed Dvořák, and the scenes of daily activity inspired him in the "From the New World" Symphony.

On December 20, 1892, three months after arriving in the United States, Antonín Dvořák began planning his ninth symphony. He gave the subtitle "From the New World" recognizing the source of his inspiration. He completed the last of the four parts on May 24, 1893, writing with relief in the manuscript "Thank God!". It was the first complete composition in America.

"I just wrote in the spirit of American folk songs," Dvořák replied when he was accused of copying the Negro spirituals. Indeed, his melodies are entirely authentic and are reminiscent of the rhythms and vocal style of negro songs rather than trying to imitate the songs themselves.

The first performance of the Symphony No. 9 under the direction of Anton Seidl in Carnegie Hall, New York, on December 16, 1893, was extremely successful. The New York Herald newspaper referred to "a large audience of mostly quiet Americans, thrilled to the end of a frenzy." The music they listened to was a perfect combination of Czech and American folk music. The bohemian melodies of the composer's old world merged with the rhythms of the Negro spirituals and Indian songs of the new world. American influences emerged dramatically in the second and third parties. In the first, Dvořák conceived the essence of the Negro spiritual, while he based the second on the religious ceremony of Hiawatha, Longfellow's story about the American Indian. Dvořák had already read this poem in Czech before crossing the Atlantic.


1. Adagio - Allegro molto

Like the other three parts, the first Adagio - Allegro molto, begins with an introduction indicative of mood. We are immediately aware of the scale and mystery of the music theme.

In the first part, Dvořák introduces three main ideas, three thematic subjects:
- the first is a lively rag-time in the woodwinds, notable for its announcing and responsive phrases,
- the second, a triumphant comment at a co-cutting rate driven by the horns, resembling a Czech polka,
- the third, a melody vaguely reminiscent of the Negro spiritual "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot".

As the themes develop, they interact with each other, creating colorful combinations and mood contrasts.

2. Largo

Largo's melody, which remains true to the style of spirituals, rhythmically and harmoniously, demonstrates a delicate balance of simplicity and dignity. It is gentle and exalted, imbued with the deep melancholy of the black slave tradition.

Its beginning is purely cinematic: a succession of fixed chords in brass and woodwinds gradually fluctuates, revealing to us the panoramic view of the American meadows. From this scene emerges a beautiful, slow-moving, singing melody that plays expressively the English horn.

The middle section of this part interrupts the serenity with an acceleration of rhythm and a hasty cation theme of three notes on the flute and the oboe. This brief turmoil is followed by a wide melody of woodwind instruments supported by the splash of the deep strings. The mood is particularly gloomy, expressing sadness for the old world threatened by the new. Finally, when the English horn returns, it creates an intense atmosphere of melancholy.

3. Scherzo: molto vivace

The dramatic beginning of the third part, Scherzo: molto vivace, is reminiscent of the tempestuous rhythm from Scherzo of Beethoven's 9th "Choral" Symphony. The two trios contrasted with the previous part, introducing erratic rhythms that subjected the rag-time melodies that dominated New York's dance halls at the time. But there is a bohemian verve, which adds another dimension to the popular element.

4. Allegro con fuoco

Dvořák's highly original approach is on the rise in the latter part, Allegro con fuoco. After a brief introduction, the horns and trumpets declare the movement's main theme against sharp chords played by the rest of the orchestra. The second theme is then presented by the clarinet above tremolos in the strings.

All the main themes of the other parts are combined in a color illumination. Excerpts of previous melodies contrast with each other. Nothing is expelled. The themes come together in this panoramic view of the new world - the vast expanses, the popular culture, the noise and rhythm of New York and especially the absolute adventure and emotion that comes from it all.