Maurice Ravel


Born: March 7th, 1875 in Ciboure, France
Died: December 28th, 1937 (at age 62) in Paris, France
Nationality: French
Fields: Impressionist music
Famous For: His effects and instrumental textures as well as his melodies

Maurice Ravel was French composer that his well-known for his melodies and orchestral instrumental textures. He was also a very prominent figure in Impressionist music. His best known compositions are “Daphnis et Chloé” and “Bolero,” originally named “Fandango.”

Ravel was heavily influenced by music from across the world including Asian music, American Jazz, and also traditional European folk songs. He was not very religious and he did not like the religious themes from composers like Wagner. Instead, Ravel chose classical mythology for his inspiration.

Early Years

Ravel was born in Ciboure, a Basque village in France. His mother grew up in Madrid, Spain, and his father was an inventor from Switzerland. He was raised a Catholic, along with his younger brother. The family later moved to Paris where Ravel began piano lessons. He studied harmony, composition and counterpoint with Charles-René.

Studies and Career

He joined the Paris Conservatoire when he was fourteen, but since he was unable to earn a competitive medal after three years, he was expelled. In 1898, he rejoined and was taught by Gabriel Fauré. His first major work was “Habanera,” composed for two pianos in 1895. He composed his first orchestral work, “Shéhérazade,” and performed it in 1899. In 1900, he became member of the Apache Club, a group of modern musicians and artists.

When he was studying at the Conservatoire, Ravel composed “Pavane pour une infante défunte” in 1899, “Jeux d’eau” in 1901, “String Quartet” in 1903, “Sonatine” in 1904, “Miroirs” in 1905 and “Gaspard de la nuit” in 1908. Ravel quit Conservatoire in 1900, after studying there for fourteen years.

He spent the next ten years traveling and composing. He tried to enlist in the World War I, but was unable to due to his poor physical condition. During this time, he composed “Le tombeau de Couperin.” His mother died in 1917 and then he fell into a severe depression. It took him a few years before he regained his health and creative spirit.

Later Life

In 1920, he was nominated for an award from the France’s “Légion d’honneur,” but he turned it down. He thought that accepting tributes from France would put him under some type of obligation. The next year, he bought a house in a Montfort l’Amaury, a small village west of Paris. Ravel lived in this house for the remainder of his life. He kept composing music there.

He frequently went to Paris to socialize and also for performances. As a result, Ravel increased his number of concert tours. He completed the “Sonata for Violin and Cello” in 1922. Ravel also finished his very well-known orchestra arrangement of “Mussorgsky’s Pictures.” This work brought him even more fame and profits.


In 1932, he was in a taxi accident and suffered a major injury to his head, although at the time it was not thought to be very serious. He soon started experiencing aphasia-like symptoms, along with being very absent minded. In 1938, he underwent experimental brain surgery. When he woke up after the surgery, he quickly went into a coma and he died on December 26th.

Major Works and Legacy

Ravel’s later compositions included the “Le Tombeau de Couperin” in 1917, and “Rapsodie espagnole” and “Boléro.” Sergey Diaghilev commissioned him to create a composition for the ballet “Daphnis et Chloé” and he finished this in 1912. In 1920, he worked on “La Valse,” a composition that has received different credits as concert work and a ballet. Today, he is still considered to be the most popular composer from France.