A secret dedication hidden in Maurice Ravel's music - Home

Page 3  Le Coeur de l'horloge
" Nor do I blow my nose... "  (1)

The true Potter.

        [What his friends say]

Ricardo Viñes writes, in his private diary,  on the 1st of November 1896 :

"They had played the Prelude de Tristan and, what a coincidence, as I was thinking, terribly moved, that there was nothing in the world as so sublime and divine as this Prélude, at that moment, Ravel touched my hand, telling me : "It is always like that, each time I hear it..." and, indeed, he who looks so cold and cynical, he, Ravel, the super-eccentric decadent, Ravel was shaking convulsively and was crying like a child, but deeply, because spasmodically, tears slipped out of him. Until now, despite the high opinion I had about Maurice Ravel's intellectuality, as he is so uncommunicative for the most little things of his life, I believed that, perhaps, there was a bit of bias on his part and of elegance in his opinions and literary taste; but since this afternoon, I see that this man is born with inclinations, likings and opinions and that, when he expresses them it is not to look snobbish or to follow fashion, but because he realy feels them and I take advantage or this occasion to declare that Ravel is a most ill-fated and unrecognized being, because he's taken for a failure whereas he's in fact an intelligence and a superior artist who would deserve a wondrous destiny. He's, moreover, very complex; there is in him a mixture of medieval catholic and satanic ungodly, but with also the love towards Art and Beauty that guides him and makes him feel ingenuously, as he prooved today, crying at the hearing of the Prélude de Tristan et Yseult."

Ricardo Viñes, a spanish pianist born the same year as Ravel (1875) arrived in Paris in October 1887 with his mother. He met Ravel in November 1888 at a private piano class, the Cours Schaller. They both would  enter the Conservatoire in the pianist de Bériot's class. Their mother are seeing each have an occasion of speaking Spanish. Ricardo and Maurice were sharing their musical enthusiasms, their litterary tastes.  The diary, a most important testimony for those who want to understand Ravel, will be soon published due to Nina Gubisch (Press of the Montreal University, Canada)
" It is under the influence of women that Ravel worked best.  Lots of them were hanging aroud him, and he was very happy about it. They were many, and various [??]of character."
Manuel Rosenthal met Ravel, but only in 1926. He was his last real pupil.

"Ravel, who, during all the first part of his career, was  monving in the most fachionable circles of the capital, found among these simples [in the old botanical sense] an atmosphere whicih he voluptuously breathed."
" He had a sense of decency concerning his feelings even more easily offended than Debussy's one. But don't believe that he is devoid of sensibility. On the pretence of his letting nothing to hazard, his carefully
adjusting all his scordes with inimitable meticulousness and precision, one declared that his genius was affected by a kind of dryness. Stravinski was incredibly unfear with him, when he declared that he was nothing but a "Swiss watchmaker". When one condescends, I do not say to listen but to auscultate his Quatuor, the last piece of Ma Mère l'Oye, the final choir of L'Enfant et les sortilèges and all the score of Daphnis et Chloé, one sees that Ravel is emotional and sensible, but his conficences are full of tact and discretion." [I am underlining...]

Emile Vuillermoz (1878-1960) was a fellow pupil of Ravel in Fauré's class of composition (Revue musicale, December 1938)

"How much he foolled his lot ! He is told to be a revolutionnary although  we know that he is the most authentic follower of Rameau and Couperin. He is also told to be a perfect indifferent, a magician of sounds who makes his tricks only in order to astonish a thrilled public : but this illusionist is the most sensible and the most moving of all musicians."

Tristan Klingsor (Avant-scène of L'Enfant et les sortilèges)
"He looked like mysterious because he was too decent to reveal his deep fervour. A teach of humour was helping him to hide himself better. This ambitious carrier of dreams liked to be most preoccupied by the exterior." Tristan Klingsor, L'époque Ravel.

"A lovely litte Italian girl, a xylophonist, had filled Ravel with wonder; wasn't her name Maria Valente ?" 

Hélène Jourdan-Morhange probably met Ravel in 1917 and soon became one of his best friens. (Ravel et  nous)

"One hardly encompasses from how much energy is made the glory of an artist; [...] ; But had again and again to wrestle : now, it was "against himself". He was feeling like being his proper prisoner. Prisoner of a manner, or of a discipline, prisoner of the meticulous care he took of his works, of his way of writing, of his harmonical habits, of his subtle taste. And also of some of Baudelaire's thesis (especially those on the beauty of the artifice). And, like all true humoristes, he kept an extreme decency concealing his soul. You must add the extraordinary awareness that this razor-like intelligence, precise and foreknowing, had of men and of what they thought...
All that makes an atmosphere where creation was much more difficult than for naive men as Albéric Magnard or Paul Dupin (great artists themselves, and so moving). Ravel lived in a constant desire of  the better, in the abhorrence of  the "near enough" and of the carelessness, in the fear of that his art lacked this  "quality of style" he thought to be a primordial duty of the artist, and the necessary sign of his  professionnal honesty of good craftsman (actually, this conception doesn't lack moral elevation;  this may have been not enough perceived).

When the resolution of starting to work was taken, of  discarding everything else, cloistering himself (not without tiredness, as one can believe), he was getting throug all the obstacles. Often, the music stood up stronger from that inexorable logic, that faultless construction of "perfect watchmaker". But the word watchmaker doe not suit me completely. It refers to the work of a mecanician not to that of a sensible being. You could retort that Ravel was pretending to compose with the sole "reason" ? He knew well that another cause was intervening in, may he had to keep it hidden. He was the first to be hurt by one's writing "I M. Debussy's art is all sensibility, that of M. Ravel is complete insensibility"

"There is no point looking, indiscreetly, any analogy between Ravel and the Potter of Tristan Klingsor. But nowadays everybody admits that he was, sometimes, a sensible man (which is easy to prove by his music)"

(I am underlying...)

Charles Koechlin, fellow pupil in Gedalge and Fauré's classes « Ravel et ses luttes » (Revue Musicale de décembre 1938)

"So I was always stupefied  that so few people scented the monster of tenderness Maurice Ravel was." Jacques de Zogheb "(Souvenirs ravéliens", in Maurice Ravel par quelques-uns de ses familiers, 1939, éd. du Tambourinaire)

The dandy
"He almost cried because of it ! Gaillard had forgot him at the last minute, who had to deliver hims his new blue evening dress for the premier [of  l'Heure espagnole Maurice Delage, éd du Tambourinaire

Idées, estéthique...
"He never talked about death, and feared it."

Ravel et nous
"On s'aperçoit vite que Debussy affecte souvent une trompeuse nonchalance, alors que Ravel ne se départ jamais, dans sa magie, d'une inflexible volonté." Vuillermoz (L'œuvre de Maurice Ravel

(1) Mallarmé's answer to the question "So you never cry,  in your poems, Mr. Mallarmé ? (quoted by Hélène Jourdan-Morhange in Ravel et nous)

David Lamaze
Le Cygne de Ravel ~ Le Coeur de l'horloge