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Maurice Ravel
Born: March 7, 1875, Ciboure, France
Died: December 28, 1937, Paris
French composer. Ravel is ranked with Debussy as one of
the most influential composers at the turn of the twentieth
 Maurice Ravel is often linked with his countryman
Claude Debussy, and there are some important
similarities in their music. Both used the rich
harmonies and new scales that are usually
associated with musical impressionism, and both
had an interest in the exotic. But where Debussy
was a sensualist, influenced by the symbolist and
decadent movements, Ravel was more of a
craftsman and traditionalist, creating a style that was
almost neoclassical.
 As so many French composers, Ravel received his
training at the Paris Conservatory. After long study
and five attempts to win the prestigious Prix de
Rome, Ravel set off on his own. This was a time
of great productivity for the composer in which he
honed his craft and developed the meticulous
qualities for which he would be known. One of
these is his skill as an orchestrator. His most
popular piece, Boléro, is in many ways a grand set
of variations based on orchestration.
 A number of his pieces began as piano works,
which he later orchestrated, and he is justly
famous for a piece he didn't write, his masterful
orchestration of Musorgsky's Pictures at an
Exhibition. He also was drawn to the music of
other cultures. While he showed some interest in
musical Orientalism (his Sheherazade being a fine
example), his real love was the music of Spain,
and he created a number of works (Rapsodie
espagnole and Boléro being the best known) that
have a distinctly Spanish flavor.
 In the 1910s and 1920s, Ravel was influenced by the
presence in Paris of the Russian Igor Stravinsky, and the
activities of the Ballets Russes. His music took on a
sharper edge and, along with Stravinsky, returned to
older principles. That resulted in what is often referred
to as a neoclassical style. After World War I, Ravel
traveled extensively as a conductor. He was especially
appreciated in the United States, and during his visits to
this country he was exposed to American jazz. This too
found its way into some of his later pieces, most notably
the slow movement of his sonata for violin, which
incorporates elements of blues style.