Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)

Ravel was a French composer who lived at the same time as Debussy. He used many of the same techniques as his countryman. His music reflects an interest in the exotic, jazz style of Wagner and Russian music. Ravel wrote music that portrayed ideas more than images. His composition “La Valse” (“The Waltz”) represented Ravel’s concern with the decline of European society. He put his thoughts into music by writing a piece that becomes more and more dissonant, louder in volume, and ends with a great crashing chord played by the entire orchestra.

“Le Tombeau de Couperin” (“The Tomb of Couperin”) was written as a response to the loss of friends in WW I. Ravel’s most famous piece is “Bolero.” Composed for a ballet, this piece is basically one melody that repeats over and over with different instruments playing it each time. The 15-minute work gets louder and louder, crescendoing up to the final note.

“Bolero” is a one-movement orchestral piece that premiered in 1928. It was originally composed as a ballet and is considered Ravel’s most famous musical composition. The music is played over an ostinato (a musical phrase that is repeated over and over) rhythm that is played continuously throughout the piece.

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