By Paul Roberts
Amadeus Press, $24.99, 256 pages
Although many people would recognize the name—Maurice Ravel, they know little about this early 20th Century French composer who served as a driver in World War I. Famous for his piano music, he often wrote for orchestra as well. His music is challenging, not only for musicians, but also for the audience. What we know of Ravel comes to us from students that he taught and letters about music he wrote. Paul Roberts looks at Ravel’s solo piano pieces starting from works that he wrote as a music student to the more famous pieces written later in his life. The reader would discover that Ravel’s music was affected by his friendship with Debussy that ended in distrust and that Ravel stopped writing piano music after World War I. Besides, being a demanding composer, Ravel was not the greatest player.
This is not a traditional biography. Roberts looks at each individual piece and then examines what was happening to Ravel and what he thought of the piece during that time period. A good work until the last chapter that feels anticlimactic and out of place.
Reviewed by Kevin Winter