Maurice RAVEL
7 March 1875 - 28 December 1937 (age 62)

Ravel was a French Basque pianist and composer. His estate earns more royalties than any other French composer. Copyright on his works expired in 2015.





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portrait of Ravel


Born: Joseph-Maurice Ravel, 7 March 1875 in Ciboure, near Biarritz, French Basque region.
Father: Joseph Ravel, Swiss, industrialist and inventor.
Mother: Marie Delouart, Basque.
Siblings: younger brother Édouard.
Partners: none
Children: none
Died: 28 December 1937
Cause of death: Died following exploratory brain surgery.
Grave: Cimetiere de Levallois-Perret, Paris, France


L'heure espagnole
L'enfant et les sortilèges
Ma mère l'oye (Mother Goose)
Daphnis et Chloé
La valse
Orchestral music:
Rapsodie espagnole
Pavane pour une infante déunte
Valses nobles et sentimentales
Chamber music
Piano music

Transciptions and Orchestrations
He was also a gifted transcriber and orchestrator.
He orchestrated Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition which had been written for the piano.

The Man

Build: A short man approx. 5'4", 1m.62cm. Slim and well proportioned with a large head and bony features
Appearance: A dandy. A follower of fashion. He liked frilly shirts and showy ties. As a young man he had a beard.
Temperament: Sensitive and self-critical with a sense of humour. Enjoyed smoking, good food and wine. Impeccable manners. A good storyteller - he loved reading and had an extensive library.
Health: Good until he was 40. He then increasingly suffered from depression, inability to concentrate, insomnia, lassitude, exhaustion and verious other mental and nervous symptoms.
Religion: Atheist. (His parents were Roman Catholic).
When he died he was buried without a religious ceremony.
Politics: Left wing. Opposed to social inequality. Anti capital punishment.
Love life: A very private man. Rumours that he was gay are unfounded. It was said that he frequented bordellos. Once he was spurned and ridiculed by a lady that he fancied which apparently put an end to further amorous pursuits.
"At heart, my only mistress is music."

Take a tour of Ravel's house

Education and Career 

- Age 3 months: Family moved to Paris
- Age 6: Began piano lessons
- Age 14: First public recital
- Age 14-20: Attended the Consevatoire de Paris as a piano major.
- Age 18: First compositions. Introduced to Erik Satie who was a big influence.
- Age 23: Returned to the Conservatoire to study composition under Gabriel Fauré. Failed 5 times to win the Prix de Rome.
- Age 25: Joined 'The Apaches' (The Hooligans) a group of artists, writers and musicians who met regularly to exchange ideas and have a good time. Worked as a freelance musician and teacher.
- Age 34: First tour of England and Scotland.
Commissioned by Sergio Diaghilev to write the ballet 'Daphnis et Chloé'. The lead dancer was Nijinsky.
- Age 39: Served as an ambulance driver during the First World War.
- Age 45: Awarded the Legion d'honneur, which he refused.
- Age 52: (1928) Very successful tour of America. It lasted 4 months and he played in 25 cities. He met Gershwin and Duke Ellington and visited New Orleans. As a result he incorporated jazz elements in much of his future work.
Awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music by Oxford University.
Boléro . It was one his last works and is the one by which he is best known. He himself didn't think much of it.
- Later years: After Boléro he wrote his 2 piano concertos.
- He made recordings of most of his piano works.
- Age 57: he suffered concussion in a taxi accident after which he couldn't finish any work.
- Age 62: Persuaded to undergo investigative surgery he lapsed into a coma after the operation and died 9 days later.

Pavane pour une infante défunte
Milan State University Orchestra

Piano concerto in G - mov. I
L. Bernstein

La Valse
energetically conducted by Leonard Bernstein


- "The only love affair I have ever had was with music."

- "I am not one of the great composers. All the great have produced enormously. There is everything in their work - the best and the worst, but there is always quantity. But I have written relatively little."

- "I did my work slowly, drop by drop. I tore it out of me by pieces."

- "I begin by considering an effect."

- "Music, I feel, must be emotional first and intellectual second."

- "For Debussy the musician and the man I have had profound admiration, but by nature I'm different from him. I think I have always personally followed a direction opposed to that of the symbolism of Debussy."

Torvill & Dean - 1984 Olympics

Links - and where to go for more information

Ravel - frontispiece

Last fm


The Watchmaker's Heart - made up of lots of quotes
The Watchmaker's Heart

Mystery of the missing royalties

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