Ravel: A Life

Overview

This new biography of Maurice Ravel (1875–1937), by one of the leading scholars of nineteenth- and twentieth-century French music, is based on a wealth of written and oral evidence, some newly translated and some derived from interviews with the composer’s friends and associates. As well as describing the circumstances in which Ravel composed, the book explores new evidence to present radical views of the composer’s background and upbringing, his notorious failure in the Prix de Rome, his incisive and often ...

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Overview

This new biography of Maurice Ravel (1875–1937), by one of the leading scholars of nineteenth- and twentieth-century French music, is based on a wealth of written and oral evidence, some newly translated and some derived from interviews with the composer’s friends and associates. As well as describing the circumstances in which Ravel composed, the book explores new evidence to present radical views of the composer’s background and upbringing, his notorious failure in the Prix de Rome, his incisive and often combative character, his sexual preferences, and his long final illness. It also contains the most detailed account so far published of his hugely successful American tour of 1928. The world of Maurice Ravel—including friendships (and some fallings-out) with Debussy, Fauré, Diaghilev, Gershwin, and Toscanini—is deftly uncovered in this sensitive portrait.

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Editorial Reviews

SymphonyNOW

“[A] landmark work.”—Chester Lane, SymphonyNOW

— Chester Lane

The New York Review of Books - Charles Rosen

"An excellent new biography of Ravel by Roger Nichols makes clear his ambiguous and fluctuating relation to full-fledged avant-garde modernism. The book is the most nearly complete and inclusive account of his life and work."—Charles Rosen, The New York Review of Books
The New Criterion - James Penrose

"Mr. Nichols writes perceptively about Ravel's personality and how it shaped his music, and about the earlier works' influence on later compositions. . . . One leaves Mr. Nichols's Ravel with a sense of the author's deep insight as well as Ravel's."—James Penrose, The New Criterion
SymphonyNOW - Chester Lane

“Nichols . . . enriches our understanding of [a] compositional titan.”—Chester Lane, SymphonyNOW
Choice - R. Pitts

"Includes exhaustive notes, a ten-page bibliography, a superb chronology of Ravel's life, and a complete catalog of his works. Highly recommended."—R. Pitts, Choice
American Conservative - R.J. Stove

“Ravel could not have hoped to be evaluated by a more elegant stylist.”—R. J. Stove, American Conservative
Notes - Mark DeVoto

“Roger Nichols’s new book bids fair to be the best-ever biography of Ravel in English.” —Mark DeVoto, Notes
Library Journal
The distinguished prose of Nichols (The Life of Debussy), who writes chiefly on the subject of 20th-century French music, has earned him the Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur. In this excellent new volume, he takes as a starting point his 1977 biography of composer Maurice Ravel (Ravel), availing himself of recent scholarship to triple the size of his original work. He also acknowledges a debt of gratitude to Arbie Orenstein, whose 1991 Ravel: Man and Musician had been the definitive biographical and analytical study until now. Ravel (1875–1937), one of the most revered and oft-performed French composers of the 20th century, is also one its most enigmatic figures, variously described as aloof, dandyish, and, most famously by Igor Stravinsky, "the most perfect of Swiss clockmakers," though his richly colorful and evocative music has often belied these images. Nichols proceeds chronologically and includes a reflective postlude that puts Ravel into the larger context of his era.Verdict This work is breathtakingly thorough in its biographical detail, with ample references to the music itself, including score excerpts. An essential purchase.—Larry Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, PA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300108828
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 6/7/2011
  • Pages: 420
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Roger Nichols is the author of The Life of Debussy and The Harlequin Years: Music in Paris 1917–1929. He has edited most of Ravel’s piano music for Peters Edition of London.
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Table of Contents

List of illustrations in the text 9

List of plates 11

Preface

I 1875-1902: A dandy blossoms 1

II 1902-1905: Testing the Establishment 42

III 1905-1908: Mirrors, birds and the supernatural 66

IV 908-1911: A bold operatic Concepcion 99

V 911-1914: Nobility and sentiment 133

VI 914-1920: Patriotism and loss 177

VII 920-1925: Waltzing towards a love regained 215

VIII 925-1928: Jazz, America and the joy of monotony 271

IX 928-1937: Two concertos and a long farewell 304

X Postlude: The pirate and the dockmaker 348

Source abbreviations 358

Notes 360

Ravel chronology 390

Catalogue of works 399

Select bibliography 403

Index 413

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