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20th century

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Ravel Maurice

Aitken, Robert

Arnold, Malcolm

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Bennet, Richard Rodney

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Ravel, Maurice

Reynolds, Verne

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Yun, Isang

Piece en forme de Habanera

Piece en forme de Habanera

By Ravel Maurice

M. Ravel: Piece en forme de Habanera was written in 1907. As the original title suggests (Vocalise etude en forme de Habanera) it was composed as a song without words for mezzo-contralto or contralto and piano. Due to his upbringing, Ravel was fond of Spanish music, he renamed this vocal etude to Habanera and later transcribed it for cello and piano. Subsequently, transcriptions for other instruments emerged as well, including flute and piano.

The work was premiered in concert at the Société Nationale de Musique on February 22nd, 1919, in the Salle de la Société des Concerts (former conservatory), by Magdeleine Greslé and Marcel Chadeigne. 

"It was commissioned by singing teacher Amédée Louis Hettich (also a great friend of Mel Bonis) in order to help his pupils work on breathing and range homogeneity.
Nevertheless, it is the instrumental arrangement that is most successful, including the one for flute and piano by Louis Fleury.
The single movement, marked "Presque lent et avec indolence", unfolds the characteristic ostinato of the Cuban swaying dance in the left hand, while the flute melody unfolds in a haunting and ornamental manner."
Gabrielle Oliveira Guyon

The score was published in 1909 by Alphonse Leduc, in the Répertoire moderne de vocalises-études. However, Ravel was very upset by the total silence of the publisher Alphonse Leduc to the piece, that he categorically refused to orchestrate the Vocalise.

 

Jean-Claude Gérard

Boris Bagger (guitar & arrangement), 2015

Piece en forme de Habanera

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Vincent Lucas

Laurent Wagschal, piano, 2019, indeSENS

Piece en forme de Habanera

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Ravel Maurice

Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937) was a French composer, one of the most renown composers associated with Impressionism. Born in a small French village near Spanish border in a multicultural family (his father was a Swiss engineer and acclaimed inventor, and his mother was Basque), young boy was raised in cultural environment complimented with mother’s folk songs when the family moved to Paris. Initially educated by his father, Maurice took piano classes and later studied composition with Léo Delibes. During teenage years young boy was fascinated by music of R.Wagner and N. Rimsky-Korsakov as well as writers like E.A. Poe and Ch. Baudelaire that made a lasting impression on him. During his studies at the Conservatoire de Paris he gradually switched from piano to composition becoming pupil of Gabriel Fauré who praised Ravel’s “engaging wealth of imagination”.

Even though he was expelled from the Conservatoire for not winning any prizes and often criticized for his earliest works, Maurice always appeared immune to critique. At the turn of a 20th century Ravel joined “Les Apaches” (The Hooligans), a group of various artists who positioned themselves as artistic outcasts. This intellectually stimulating atmosphere lured many composers of that time, including I. Stravinsky, M. de Falla etc. The 5th  unsuccessful attempt to win the Prix de Roma created national scandal and major reorganization in the Conservatory. By that time Ravel mostly composed for piano, subsequently arranging some of his compositions to orchestra. Out of two operas and three ballets written before World War I, the most prominent work, ballet Daphnis et Chloé (which Ravel described as “choreographic symphony”) was commissioned by famous impresario Sergei Diaghilev. Later Ravel extracted music from the ballet to make two orchestral suites. After several unsuccessful attempts to be enlisted in French Army, he managed to join artillery forces as a lorry driver. Among his most noteworthy compositions at that time is a suite Le tombeau de Couperin, commemorating a close friend who died in the war. After the war and the death of C. Debussy in 1918, Ravel was considered as the leading French composer of the 1920s period, composing one work per year: ballet music “La valse” (1920), violin rhapsody “Tzigane” (1924), and ballet “Boléro” (1928), commissioned by Ida Rubinstein. During that period he moved out of Paris to the countryside and went on tours throughout Europe, US and Canada.
In 1930s he composed two piano concertos from which the Concerto in D major for the Left Hand was written by comission of Austrian pianist P. Wittgenstein who lost his right arm during the war. After the car accident in 1932 and blow to the head Ravel started experience symptoms of aphasia with difficulty to formulate a thought that gradually led to ending his career.
Fun fact: during his lifetime Ravel refused to accept any honours of France (including Légion d'honneur) but accepted foreign awards. Among few pupils who received lessons from Ravel were Manuel Rosenthal and Vaughan Williams.