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Music for Spring

John Rowland

Posted on March 19, 2018 13:35

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Beyond Boléro

When classical music is mentioned, most listeners think of such composers as Beethoven, Bach or Mahler. At the mention of Impressionism, they think immediately of Debussy.

However, the return of spring every year -- coming on March 21 by the calendar -- also brings an earlier date very special to me, March 7: The birthdate of the more obscure of the two French composers associated with Impressionism, Maurice Ravel. For interested listeners, Ravel presents some of the most elevated, yet the most thrilling music in the world.

A sensitive, exquisite man -- composer of music unearthly in its intelligence -- Ravel was not an ivory-tower dweller afraid to face real life. He was a passionate patriot who when he was rejected by the French Air Force, enlisted as a lorry driver in World War I.

In fact, his reverence for the military was such that he composed the magnificent Tombeau de Couperin, with each section dedicated to a friend fallen in that conflict. He also wrote a special piano work for another pianist patriot, Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm in the war.

One of Ravel's most famous and difficult works, the Piano Concerto in D Major for the Left Hand has been spectacularly performed by later pianists using the left hand alone. A tour de force as Boléro has been called, this concerto's rising melody notes leading to an electrifying rhythmic section make a much more brilliant introduction to spring than Boléro’s studied repetitions.

Everybody enjoy!

John Rowland

Posted on March 19, 2018 13:35

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