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

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Ravel and Love

"His essential talent was to know how to express an immense tenderness." Rosenthal op. cit.  p. 11.

Year Month Facts, quotations... Sources.
March Born in Ciboure, near Saint-Jean-de-Luz, in the Pays Basque (France)
1895 November A melody repeating itself is spoofing a wagnerian theme : the irresistible call (Tristan un Isolde).
Habanera, number 7.
December He cries "like a child" hearing  Tristan et Isolde, thereby suprising much his close friend Ricardo Viñes.

Journal de Ricardo Viñes, soon published by Nina Gubisch (Press of the  University of Montréal, Canada).
 1902 - ... When the Apaches were gathering, " the women were excluded to avoid troubles. Ravel, by the way, Ravel so courteous, was rather flinty on that matter. He wanted to escape from "grappin". A singer of great skill,  and shrewd, tried for a moment to catch him. In vain."
L'époque Ravel, by T. Klingsor, in Ravel par quelques uns de ses familiers. éd. du Tambourinaire.  p 134.
1908 January Ravel is proposing l'Heure espagnole to Albert Carré, administrator of the Opéra-Comique :
"Rejected... impossible to impose such a subject to the ingenuous ears of the Opéra-Comique subscribers. Think : these lovers locked in clocks, carried to the bedroom! One knows well what they will do there !!! (sic)* [...**] This prudish mentality is to rather astonishing in Carré. Isn't he young to think of becoming hermit ?"

* The (sic) due to Ravel who wants Ida to understand that Carré is speaking..
** There is quoted Schopfer, in a way I couldn't explain (so I prefered not to translate it, see here).
AO p 94. Letter to Ida Godebska.
1908 March
"In Le Monsieur aux Chrysanthèmes one stages, Catulle Mendès writes, "the most stupid and disgusting vice". The old ones are always very virtuous..."
The play from M. Armory given in the Nouveau Théâtre is about masculine homosexuality.
AO, p. 98. Letter to Ida Godebska. 
1919 January
"The morals... it's what that I use and I'm determined to keep. We're not fated to marry, we who are artists. We're seldom normal, even less often is our life."
Mrs Casella has just divorced from her husband the composer Alfredo Casella.
AO p.63 Letter to  Mrs Casella.

"One talks of my hardness of heart, he told Jacques de Zogheb, a neighbour at Montfort-l'Amaury.They're wrong. And you know it. But I'm Basque. The Basque have a violent sensibilty, but they litte confide, and only in few people."
 Souvenirs Ravéliens, Jacques de Zogheb in Ravel, par quelques-uns de ses familiers, éditions du Tambourinaire 1939
For Rosenthal's belief upon women's influence on Ravel, see page 2.

If one does not know any liaison in Ravel's life, the composer has not stopped to use the theme of love in his music.
Love can be... Works. Comments.
dangerous, Ballade de la reine morte d'aimer. (ca 1893)
Spanish, Sérénade grotesque (ca 1892-1893), Alborada del gracioso (1905).

devotee, Sainte (déc.1896). D'anne jouant de l'espinette (déc. 1896). D'Anne qui me jecta de la neige (jan. 1900)
The woman is a saint, "musician of the silence" (Mallarmé).
oriental, Schéhérazade (an Ouverture in Nov. 1898 then with the same title, 3 melodies in 1903)
Greek, L'Indifférent (of Schéhérazade II, 1903) Vuillermoz wonders if we see, in this poem, the inviation of a courtesan or of a "Greek philosopher".
flowery, Manteau de fleurs (1903) "Rose suits her beauty". 
proud, Quel galant m'est comparable (fév. 1904)
"What lover could match me up ?"
magic, La Cloche engloutie (1906-1913) Henri, a bell-caster is seduced by the elf, Rautendelein. He leaves his village, his wife and children to live with her in the mountains, trying to achieve his masterpiece, among fairy creatures : the Dwarves, the Faun and the Ondin.
animal, Le Cygne des Histoires naturelles. (déc. 1906)
adulterous, L'Heure espagnole ( (1907-1911)
Her name is Concepcion and her lovers-to-be travel by clocks.
on the grass, Sur l'herbe (juin 1907).
In this poem of Verlaine, even the priest, who drank a little, seem not to be indifferent to Camargo's neck.
childish, Ma Mère l'Oye : La Belle au bois dormant, la Belle et la bête. (1908)
rustic, Daphnis et Chloé ( 1909-1912)
In a letter, Ravel did refer to himself as the "poor Daphnis"... 
danced, and mainly upon a Walz : Valses nobles et sentimentales, la Valse, the many Walzes of l'Enfant et les Sortilèges.
"The best trick that you can play to the Devil, is to propose him a dance that he canno refuse." (Ravel quoted by Rosenthal)
romantic, Adélaïde ou le langage des fleurs (1912) The music is the Valses nobles et sentimentales. Ravel wrote himself  the libretto extremely fast in a rush : Adélaïde, voluptuous and natty, seduces the young and sincere Lorédan, then the rich Duke. She gets some beautiful gifts from the latter... before yielding to the first. And everyone gives everyone symbolic flowers to express one's feelings.
virginal, A la manière de Chabrier. (june 1912) Quotes Gounod's famous Faust, when Siebel tells the flowers of Marguerite's garden : "Faites-lui mes aveux, portez  mes vœux..." Tell her my flame, carry my wishes" (1)
poetically said, Trois poèmes on Mallarmé's texts (1913) Each of these three poems evoke love but in three different ages : In  "ô calme soeur"(O, calm sister), love is adolescent and pure, then, in "Princesse, nommez-nous berger de vos sourires" [Princess, name me sheperd of your smiles], it is mature and longing; whereas the last poem referes to its fertility : deux bouches n'ont bu, ni son amant, ni ma mère, jamais à la même chimère, moi sylphe de ce froid plafond ! " (two mouthes never drank, neither her lover nor my mother, the same chimera, me, sylph of this cold ceiling.)
a wounded friendship, Tombeau de Couperin ( 51914-1917) Ravel dedicated all the pieces to his friend killed in action during the first world war.
in the meadow or in the woods, Nicolette, Ronde (1915) Written by Ravel.
filial, L'enfant et les Sortilèges (1919-1925) Colette proposed Ravel a original poem "Divertissement pour ma fille" that Ravel, according to Rosenthal, changed a lot. Colette pretends to have lost the original manuscript but she gave Hélène Jourdan Morhange a single page... that is completely different from the final version.
very "Renaissance", Ronsard à son âme (1923)
exotic, Chansons madécasses (February 1925- February 1926)
Spanish (II) Don Quichotte à Dulcinée (1932-1933)

(1) Thereafter : "Flowers that were born beside her, tell her that she's wonderful, that my heart, day and night, yearns for her love! "

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