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

Robert Schumann - Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54

 

Schumann's wife, Clara, was an accomplished musician and outstanding pianist. She was the first to perform Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor.

The first part of this famous romantic concerto, one of Schumann's most important works, was written in 1841 as a "Phantasie" for piano and orchestra with only one part. Robert Schumann had a hard time finding a publisher and gave it up. In 1845 he revised it, after his wife Clara urging him to expand it into a full piano concerto, by adding two parts and shaped the concerto as we know it today. 

Clara, which was an accomplished pianist, was the first to present the work, at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig on 13 August 1841 with only the first movement. The complete three-movement version was premiered in Dresden on 4 December 1845, again with Clara Schumann, and the dedicatee Ferdinand Hiller as the conductor. Less than a month later, on 1 January 1846, the concerto was performed in Leipzig, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn.

Movements:

I. Allegro affetuoso

The first part, Allegro affetuoso, begins with an orchestral chord followed by the imposing, unequivocal introduction of the piano. Then the woodwinds introduce the unforgettable tune of the main melody, before the piano takes over. It follows a "transitional" theme in the strings with the fluid accompaniment of the piano, but soon the piano is imposed with an expressive staccato part.

The following second theme is actually a version of the main melody. It follows one of Schumann's most beautiful musics, as the clarinet and piano compete with each other in a long melodic current. It is interrupted by a lively part for piano and orchestra. But this gives way to a slow, tender place of great beauty where the piano converses with the woodwinds. The dialogue suddenly stops as powerful piano octaves passionately announce a return to the main melody.

In the cadenza that follows, Schumann consciously avoided the techniques and skills that usually characterize this improvisational section - he was opposed to the "keyboard gladiators" as he called it and wrote this part as a test for the musician rather than the virtuoso. The cadenza ends with an extended trill and the orchestra returns to complete the part with a faster version of the main melody.


ΙΙ. Intermezzo

The second part, Intermezzo, presents Schumann in a lovable, childish mood. The piano introduces a cute and simple theme. The orchestra then participates in its re-interpretation. Soon a second, slow, expressive theme appears in the deep chords, to which the piano responds. Orchestra and piano evolve back and forth and return to the first melody and suddenly, bassoons and clarinets announce the initial notes of the main theme of the first part. The piano responds with a series of faltering notes, which is repeated and then the music dashes without interruption to the last part.


ΙΙΙ. Allegro vivace

The third part, Allegro vivace, introduces a lively melody with dance parts for the piano. Soon it cedes its place to a syncope (famous for crushing the overconfidence of many conductors). A new, imposing melody is then introduced, which develops to some extent. This part requires excellent technique and sensitivity to express the impetuousness, without losing the magic of its musicality. Indeed, the part is full of musical ideas and maintains its pace and controlled energy until its end.




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