Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
TODAY IS
May 17
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Happened
Today?
During Ravel's studies in Paris, he became friends with  several innovative young composers who referred to themselves as the "Apaches" because of their wild abandon.

As so many French composers, Ravel received his training at the Paris Conservatory. During his first year at the conservatory, he met Eric Satie and was fascinated with his unorthodox harmonies and techniques.  One of his teachers, Gedalge, later referred to him as the most remarkable counterpoint student he had ever had. In 1901 he Jeux D’Eau (Water Games) followed by Sherherezade in 1903, and String Quartet in F in 1904.

After 14 years of study and five attempts to win the prestigious Prix de Rome, Ravel set off on his own. Ravel began to hone his musical style.  He became very meticulous and precise.  In fact  Stravinsky referred to Ravel as “the Swiss watchmaker,” because of his attention to detail. Ravel would perfect small self-contained blocks of music, and only after he considered them perfect he would set them into a larger composition . . . almost as though they were tiny moving parts of a watch.

One of the skills for which Ravel is known is his expertise as an orchestrator.  Several of his most popular works can be thought of as variations on themes.  Boléro certainly fits that description.  Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition can be seen that way as well.

Ravel was drawn to the music of other cultures.  Sheherazade showed his interest in the orient, but it appears that Ravel was truly fascinated with the music of Spain.  BolRapsodie espagnole and Boléro and Rapsodie Espagnole are excellent examples of this Spanish influence.

In the 1910s and 1920s, Ravel was influenced by the music of Igor Stravinsky, who was in Paris at that time.  He began to look back at music from an earlier age, and he and Stravinsky both had a period of neoclassicism as they reexplored old principles.

After World War I, became very much appreciated as a conductor, especially in the United States.  He visited the United States several times, and became very interested in jazz and blues . . . so much so that it began to enter his music.  This is especially evident in the slow movement of his violin sonata.

In 1927 Ravel began to show signs of dementia, and suffered from muscle problems and aphasia. He was involved in an automobile accident in 1932, and his symptoms became even worse.  It was discovered that he was suffering from a brain tumor, and he had surgery, but his condition did not improve. 

Maurice Ravel died December 28. 1937, at the age of 62.
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monica huggett baroque violin
monica huggett baroque violin
Paul Dukas, the French composer, died May 17, 1935.  Almost everyone has heard his music in a movie which, features, among other things, dancing mushrooms; centaurs; ostrich, hippo, elephant and alligator ballets; and a huge number of water buckets.  Can You Guess what film features a Dukas composition?

Go to the Bottom of the Page for the Answer
Hint and extra credit question.  A wizard appears in the film.  What is the wizard's name?
Fantasia. Dukas wrote L'Apprenti Sorcier (The Sorcerer's Apprentice). This music plays as Mickey Mouse tries to fill a vat with water using a spell instead of his muscles.  The wizard is named Yen Sid.  (Read the wizard's name backwards to figure out why.)
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Includes Ravel's Tzigane, rhapsodie de concert, for violin & piano
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Maurice Ravel. whose Schéhérazade premiered on this date in 1904,  was born in Ciboure, France, March 7, 1875. His mother was Basque while his father was a Swiss inventor and industrialist. At age 7, he began piano lessons and began composing pieces several years later. He and his father often performed duets together.  His parents encouraged his music and sent him to the Conservatoire de Paris, first as a prepratory student and eventually as a piano major.
Maurice Ravel
1875-1937
1846 - Antoine Joseph Sax patented the "saxophone" in Belgium.

1923 - Peter Mennin, US composer and president of the Juilliard School, was born.

1939 - Premiere of Serge Prokofiev's cantata Alexander Nevsky in Moscow.

1969 - Leonard Bernstein conducted his last concert as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. He conducted 939 performances with the orchestra (831 as Music Director - 36 world premieres).

1969 - In The Ghetto, by Elvis Presley, was released.

2001 - Premiere of Rouse's Clarinet Concerto.  Soloist Larry Combs and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra were conducted by Christoph Eschenbach.
Maurice Ravel: Tzigane Concerto For Violin And Orchestra - Piano Reduction - sheet music at www.sheetmusicplus.com Maurice Ravel: Tzigane Concerto For Violin And Orchestra - Piano Reduction Composed by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Set of performance parts (includes separate violin pull out part). With solo part and piano reduction. 25 pages. Published by Durand.
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