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

César Franck - Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra

Like many great composers before him, César Franck earned his living more as a virtuoso performer than as a composer. Most of his works were widely recognized after his death

Towards the end of his career César Franck realized that French music had little great work to present for piano and orchestra, and decided to contribute to the change of scenery.

In 1884 he experimented using piano and orchestra in his symphonic poem "Les Djinns" (a symphonic poem is a work for an orchestra based on a theme that is not musical). Finally its goal was achieved in 1885 with the synthesis of the Symphonic Variations - a work of timeless quality.

Franck's original idea was aimed at a concert-form project, in which, however, the piano would share the musical theme just as much as the orchestra. In his early thoughts he envisioned a form based on Beethoven's great works, as well as great composers of the Baroque era. What he eventually composed, however, is more reminiscent of imagination. 

The work consists of three broad parts, while the variations, a total of six, appear only as a feature of the middle section. It was first presented at the Société Nationale de Musique in May 1886.


An introduction is the first part of this famous work. In the first variation, in the first meters, the strings play a touching phrase to which the piano responds. The strings keep playing and the piano responds. This time, however, they follow the deep strings by playing the first theme, the interpretation of which is finally undertaken by the full orchestra. Now we get an idea of the main theme, played here by pizzicato strings. As this part concludes, melodies sound and remind us of previous parts of the work.

The middle part of the work begins with the "variation theme", which serenely interprets the piano. This short 18-meter theme is followed by the first variation, a wonderful dialogue between piano and orchestra. The second variation, a soft and flowing melody, interprets cellos and violas, while the piano accompanies with passages all sensitivity.

In the third variation the solo instrument is perfectly controlled, while the pizzicato strings and the staccato woodwinds accompany discreetly. 

The fourth variation has a more complete editing. The musical theme is again based on the first measures of the introduction.

The fifth variation is simpler. Here the orchestra leads, while the piano interprets antithetical cosmetic melodies. The music slows down to present the sixth variation.

In the sixth variation begins the grand finale. Franck again bestows the opening melody on the cello, an instrument that occupies a prominent role in this work. Here's a more lively segment, where the same theme is presented again on the bass, at a faster rate. From this point on, the finale develops into energy and brilliance, as the composer combines an admirable variety of excerpts of the main theme with an exquisite piano writing.