Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), a French composer, generally considered to be one of
the major composers of the 20th century, studied at Paris Conservatoire under
Faure and Gedalge. Satie and Chabrier also influenced his work. Important impact
on his style was made by Debussy and Russian composers (Mussorgsky,
In his music, different stylistic tendencies might be found: impressionistic and
neo-classical, Listian bravura in his most virtuoso works and Renaissance calm
in his passionless compositions like Pavane pour une infante defunte.
He is the author of numerous piano compositions, operas, ballets, orchestral and
vocal works. He developed a new piano style that became an important
contribution to the piano music of the XX century.
“Menuet Antique” (1895) is an early work by Ravel, still the characteristic
features of his style - clarity, a kind of reserve in a melodic line, specific
harmony can easily be recognized. This is the first composition by Ravel to be
“Pavane pour une infante defunte”. It might seem rather surprising that Ravel
himself didn’t like this work despite all its charm. “I can’t see its virtues
any more, - he confessed later. - But, alas! I can see the bad sides: the
influence of Chabrier that is too obvious and a poor form”. Pavane was composed
in 1899 and had a considerable success.
“Jeux d'eau” (1901). This is one of the most popular works by Ravel. The
composer wrote that in this piece "some pianistic innovations that later were
recognized as characteristic for my style had appeared for the first time". The
innovations made a great impression on the public, and the opinion wasn't always
favourable (for instance, Saint-Saens saw in Jeux d'eau an example of "total
cacophony"). At first, the specific musical language of the piece seemed strange
to Ravel’s teacher Faure, but afterwards he began to like it. Alfred Cortot
described it with a great feeling: “here you find the ever changing vitality of
splashing waters, their transparent streaming, bright cascades dispersed by the
wind, the lazy overflows of waters filling the pools and lakes in the gardens”.
The cycle “Miroirs” was composed in 1905. The pieces of the cycle are quite
impressionistic by their character and structure. Five refine musical pictures,
quite objective like all Ravel's works ("he depicts the object itself", Alfred
Cortot had observed) yet poetic and emotional are dedicated to five members of
the Apaches (hooligans), a group of avant-garde painters, writers and musicians
who shared their creations at regular meetings.
“Noctuelles” is a fantastic picture of the night, with its "mysterious bends of
a gliding, changing its direction melodic line, unsteadiness of capricious
rhythms" (Alfred Cortot).
“Oiseaux Tristes” was inspired by Ravel’s walks in Fontainebleau; birds singing,
a whistle of a thrush that was, according to Ravel's friends, imitated in the
music with a great accuracy, remind of Schumann with his "Prophet Bird" and
birds of Olivier Messiaen.
“Une barque sur l’ocean”. This is Ravel's favourite subject - a depiction of
water embodied in a typically impressionistic way.
“Alborada del Gracioso”. This is the second time when Ravel turns to a Spanish
theme (the first one was 10 years earlier in Habanera). Spanish music was
special for Ravel because of his mother. The songs she sang to him while he was
a child drove his attention to the Spanish culture and it had never left him.
Besides, there was a kind of fashion for Spanish music in France at that time.
Works by Granados, Albeniz, Manuel de Falla aroused great interest in French
cultural society. Ravel knew well all three Spanish composers, while de Falla
was a friend of his.
A bright expressive piece with its imitations of guitar and castanets, with a
specific "contest" between "tocaor" and "cantaor" in the middle section (it
reminds of a scene from de Falla's opera with an artistic competition of a
singer - cantaor - and a guitar player - tocaor), Alborada demands a great
virtuosity and temperament from the pianist.
“La vallee des cloches”. This poetic musical landscape is inspired by Ravel's
memories of Switzerland; besides, the composer embodied his impressions of the
bells in Paris, as he confessed to Robert Casadesus.
Sonatine was composed in 1905. In this work, Ravel turned to a genre that
throughout the previous century had been used only as “instructive”,
pedagogical, and gave it a new life.
He keeps the tradition of the genre regarding the structure and form of the
composition (even the repeats of the exposition in the first movement), the
duration - Sonatine isn’t a long work; but he fills it with a new content and a
new idea. Emil Vuillermoz wrote that in this composition sensitivity triumphs
over Ravel’s “legendary shyness”. Indeed, Sonatine is probably the most
emotional among his works.
Hyekyung Lee, born in Wonju, Korea in 1959 began to play piano at the age of
6. After winning several national music competitions, she had her first public
concert with Seoul Sinfonietta Orchestra in 1970, and 4 years later became the
soloist for the foundation concert of Korea Jeunesse Musicale Orchestra.
Entering Folkwang Music College in Essen, Germany in 1975, she subsequently won
the DAAD German government scholarship, the Folkwang Prize Competition and the
nationwide German Music College Union Competition.
Transferring to Muenchen Music College, she graduated with top marks in 1981.
During 2 years of graduate school, she gave recitals, performed for various
radio programs and earned the Bach Prize at Vianna da Motta International
Competition in Lisbon.
In 1984, Miss Lee returned home to teach at Chung-Ang University as a professor.
Today, Hyekyung Lee is recognized as one of Korea’s outstanding musicians with
her wide concert repertoires from baroque to contemporary. In 1984 she received
the “Critic's Prize” from the Korea Music Pen Club. In 1988 she was selected as
“Musician of the Year” by Dong-A music magazine. In 1993 she received the “Korea
Music Award” from the Korea Music Society. In 2004 she received the “Seoul Music
Prize” from the Korea Music Critic Association.
Hyekyung Lee has performed at Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center in USA, in
Sydney, Vienna, Moscow, Tokyo, Manila and with the Ulster Orchestra in Northern
Ireland. In Korea she plays regularly with the Korea Philharmonic Orchestra and
the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. She has also performed chamber music with the
Colorado String Quartet, the New Budapest String Quartet, flautist Patrick
Galloy and Maxence Larrieu, trumpeter Stephen Burns, Korea’s top violinist Dong-Suk
Kang and the Korean traditional drum quartet Samulnori, among many others. Miss
Lee's career has also brought her in contact with many fine conductors,
including Vakhtang Jordania, Bernhard Gueller, Barry Wordsworth, Sandro
Suturello and Yan Pascal Tortelier.