The first movement of Maurice Ravel’s Sonatine for piano was probably written in 1903. At any rate the composer played it on 8 January 1904 at a soirée held at the salon of Marguerite de Saint-Marceaux. It is not known at exactly what date afterwards he composed the other two movements. While the work had a very positive reception at its premiere in Lyon in 1906, the Paris public was more reserved at first. Ravel seems to have greatly valued the Sonatine because he kept including the clearly and almost classically structured work in his own concert programmes.
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According to the memoirs of Maurice Ravel’s (1875–1937) close friend, the musicologist and critic Michel Dimitri Calvocoressi, the impulse to compose the Sonatine was sparked by a composition competition (When Ravel composed to order, in: Music & Letters, 22, 1941, p. 55). The short-lived Anglo-French cultural journal Weekly Critical Review, which was published in Paris, … more
About the composer
Together with Satie and Debussy, Ravel numbers among the innovators who had a falling out with academic education and created their own avant-garde tonal languages – inspired, in Ravel’s case, by Russian and Spanish music, but also by exoticism – without abandoning tonality. This master of orchestration begins with piano works, which he orchestrates; songs with piano and piano compositions exist on an equal footing in orchestral versions.
|1875||Born in Ciboure on March 7; the family moves to Paris that same year.|
|1882||Lessons in piano, theory, and composition.|
|1889||Beginning of his studies at the Conservatoire de Paris, from which he will never graduate.|
|1901||“Jeux d’eau” for piano, in a new “Impressionist” tonal language, as is “Miroirs” (1904–05).|
|1903||“Shéhérazade” for voice and piano/orchestral accompaniment with orientalist tonal elements.|
|1905||Scandal surrounding Ravel’s third application for the Prix de Rome.|
|1907||Premiere of the “Histoires naturelles” after Jules Renard provokes astonishment in audiences and critics.|
|1907–08||Rhapsodie espagnole for orchestra.|
|1908/10||“Ma mère l’oye” (“Mother Goose”) for piano, four-hands, as a ballet in 1911.|
|1911||Premiere in Paris of his opera “L’Heure espagnole.”|
|1911/12||“Valses nobles et sentimentales” for piano/orchestra. Premiere of the ballet “Daphnis et Chloé” in 1912.|
|1914/19||“Le tombeau de Couperin” for piano/orchestra anticipates the coming neoclassicism.|
|from 1920||Many concert tours through Europe and the United States.|
|1925||Premiere of his opera “L’Enfant et les sortilèges.”|
|1928||Conferral of an honorary doctorate from Oxford University. “Bolero” for orchestra.|
|1929–31||Piano Concerto in G major with elements of jazz.|
|1937||Death in Paris on December 28.|
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