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A Ravel Reader: Correspondence, Articles, Interviews.

A Ravel Reader: Correspondence, Articles, Interviews, compiled and edited by Arbie Orenstein. Dover Publications (31 E. 2nd St., Mineola, NY 11501), 2003. 617pp. $34.95.

A Ravel Reader provides provacative readings into the life and times of Maurice Ravel by presenting the composer in is own words, both written and spoken. The clarity, elegance, polish and sophistication we have come to appreciate in Ravel's music are abundantly clear in his letters, articles and press interviews as well. A Ravel Reader is an outgrowth of author Arbie Orenstein's previous study, Ravel: Man and Musician, published in 1975 by Columbia University Press.

A Ravel Reader is organized into four main sections. The first section is comprised of three selected documents, which give insight into Ravel's career and musical thought: an autobiographical sketch dictated by Ravel to his biographer Roland-Manuel; a brief statement on his own aesthetic entitled "Some Reflections on Music"; and the only formal lecture Ravel is known to have ever given, "Contemporary Music," which was delivered in 1928 in Houston, Texas.

The second section of the book includes a selection of 346 letters from the approximately 1,500 Ravel is known to have written during his lifetime. These correspondences give us an invaluable insight into Ravel's attitudes, emotions, travels and personal interests over a span of thirty-nine years. The earliest letter dates from Ravel's days as a student at the Paris Conservatoire, and the last was written only weeks before his death in 1937.

The third section comprises the complete collection of known articles written by Ravel. These nineteen articles range in subject matter from a discussion of "Nijinsky as Ballet-Master" to critical reviews of contemporary composers and friends Falla, Faure and Stravinsky. It may surprise some to hear Ravel roundly criticize such works as Brahms's Second Symphony or Brahms's Second Piano Concerto. In another article, it is particularly interesting to appreciate Ravel's perspective in stating that his greatest teacher for compositional technique was "certainly Edgar Allan Poe"!

The fourth section of A Ravel Reader includes thirty selected press interviews, which were published between 1911 and 1933. These interviews appeared in a variety of publications from the U.S., Argentina, Austria, Great Britain, Denmark, Holland, France, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Ravel responds in a frank and open manner to a wide array of questions on many topics, including American composers, Bolero and successful piano concerti.

The nine appendixes provide additional fascinating glimpses into Ravel. These include such entries as a short selection of Ravel's complete edition of Mendelssohn's Piano Works, Ravel analyses of examples from his own works and a catalogue of his own personal record collection.

Orenstein's contribution is a wonderful resource for both amateurs and scholars alike. It provides the reader with an insight into Ravel, the man and the musician, directly from the composer's own words. Reviewed by David Northington, Knoxville, Tennessee.
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Author:Northington, David
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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