Thursday, 23 July 2015

Maurice Ravel: Piano Trio in A minor (1914)

1. Modéré
2. Pantoum (Assez vif)
3. Passacaille: Trés large
4. Final: Animé

Yehudi Menuhin, violin
Gaspar Cassadó, cello
Louis Kentner, piano
Rec. 1960

Ravel was not by inclination a teacher, but he gave lessons to a few young musicians he felt could benefit from them. Manuel Rosenthal was one, and records that Ravel was a very demanding teacher when he thought his pupil had talent. Like his own teacher, Fauré, he was concerned that his pupils should find their own individual voices and not be excessively influenced by established masters. He warned Rosenthal that it was impossible to learn from studying Debussy's music: "Only Debussy could have written it and made it sound like only Debussy can sound." When George Gershwin asked him for lessons in the 1920s, Ravel, after serious consideration, refused, on the grounds that they "would probably cause him to write bad Ravel and lose his great gift of melody and spontaneity". The best known composer who studied with Ravel was probably Ralph Vaughan Williams, who was his pupil for three months in 1908. Vaughan Williams recalled that Ravel helped him escape from "the heavy contrapuntal Teutonic manner ... Complexe mais pas compliqué was his motto."

In 1900, Maurice became part of a group comprised of innovative artists and musicians, who called themselves The Apache Club. Women weren’t allowed to join this organization but members of the group met regularly and inspired each other, until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Here, Ravel met Apache members: Erik Satie, Jean Cocteau, André Gide, Paul Valéry, Igor Stravinsky, Nijinsky and Serge Diaghile. The Apaches usually met at the home of Ida and Cyprien Godebski. One of the first works of Ravel’s performances for the Apaches was ‘Jeux d’eau’. Another one of his early masterpieces was ‘Pavane pour une infante défunte’ in 1902.

Maurice Ravel, Vaslav Nijinsky, Bronislava Nijinska in Paris (1914)

Vaughan Williams's recollections throw some light on Ravel's private life, about which the latter's reserved and secretive personality has led to much speculation. Vaughan Williams, Rosenthal and Marguerite Long have all recorded that Ravel frequented brothels. Long attributed this to his self-consciousness about his diminutive stature, and consequent lack of confidence with women. By other accounts, none of them first hand, Ravel was in love with Misia Edwards, or wanted to marry the violinist Hélène Jourdan-Morhange. Rosenthal records and discounts contemporary speculation that Ravel, a lifelong bachelor, may have been homosexual. Such speculation recurred in a 2000 life of Ravel by Benjamin Ivry; subsequent studies have concluded that Ravel's sexuality and personal life remain a mystery.

The first movement of Piano Trio in A minor was used extensively as a soundtrack in the 1992 Claude Sautet-directed love triangle Un cœur en hiver (A Heart in Winter), starring Emmanuelle Béart, Daniel Auteuil and André Dussollier. The music credits in the film are given to Maurice Ravel.

North Utsire

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