French composer Maurice Ravel
French musician Maurice Ravel was among the first composers to recognize the potential of sound recording to bring music to a wider public. He attended the Paris Conservatoire, but was not liked by its conservative authorities because of his progressive outlook. However, by the 1920s and 30s he was internationally regarded as France's greatest living composer.
Around age 50, Ravel’s close friends began to notice his growing absent-mindedness and developing aphasia, which is the inability to understand or formulate language. He forgot names and couldn’t recognize his own music.
In 1933 he tried to conduct a concert in Paris, but he was no longer capable of the coordination, cognition, or speech required to lead a major orchestra. According to his friend Igor Stravinsky, Ravel’s “final years were cruel, for he was gradually losing his memory and some of his coordinating powers, and he was, of course, quite aware of it.”
Shortly before his death, Ravel began to suffer extreme pain from his condition. He underwent brain surgery to prevent his symptoms from progressing, but lapsed into a coma and died at age 62. His exact illness is unidentified, but medical experts believe he suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, a condition that was not widely known during Ravel’s lifetime. One hundred years later, research and treatment now includes medications that may reduce the risk or progression of Alzheimer's Disease, and health algorithms that may predict the condition.
Journey with us outside Paris to uncover Maurice Ravel’s endlessly creative, boundless world. We travelled to Ravel's home in Montfort l'Amaury, about 40 km southwest of Paris, a unique gem that conveys his sense of humour and love of all things small.
MUSIC: Maurice Ravel: Bolero - Detroit Symphony/Neeme Jarvi, conducting, CD Chandos 8996
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WXXI Classical promotes and supports inclusion for musicians of all abilities through programming and special events. WXXI’s Move to Include Initiative is made possible by a generous grant from the Golisano Foundation.