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 - String Quartet No. 1 in E minor

 

 Smetana loved polka and often used its rhythm in his work, as in String Quartet No. 1.


The intensity of this autobiographical work with nationalistic elements has an emotional depth unprecedented throughout Smetana's work.

Smetana's hearing loss was heralded in 1847 by a permanent and unbearable hum in his ears (medical tinnitus). When in 1876 he found that his hearing would never be restored, he began composing the String Quartet No. 1 a four-movement chamber composition. With this work, Bedřich Smetana musically expressed the anguish and pain caused by his hearing loss.

Twenty-one years had passed since his last chamber music composition, the Piano Trio in G minor, with which he had expressed his sadness at the loss of his four-year-old daughter. Once again, he turned to chamber music in search of solace in his personal tragedy.

Smetana himself described the String Quartet as "a memory of my life and the destruction of absolute deafness". Each of the first three parts describes a phase of his youth when he could still dream. The romantic melodies of the first part recall his love for art, while the rhythms of the polka of the second part underline his love for dance music.

Sunny pictures

The sunny images mature in the third part, as he reveals the great love he felt for his first wife, Kateřina Kolářová. In the fourth and final part, the triumph he felt as one of the founders of Czech national music is thwarted by the painful discovery of his deafness.

With the long piercing cry of the highest E note in the finale, Smetana describes the incessant hum that preceded his deafness. Yet the work ends in an almost inexplicable serenity, considering the composer's condition. After all, there is a faint hope of recovery before Smetana realizes that his youthful dream will never be fulfilled. The feeling that dominates as the last note fades, is a painful sadness for what has been lost.

Bedřich Smetana wrote String Quartet No. 1 in just three months, from October to December 1876, however it was published in 1880 by František Augustin Urbánek in Prague. The reception of the work was extremely enthusiastic and inaugurated a whole series of Czech chamber works, in which the composers expressed their most deep feelings.


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