As Europe dissolved in the emotional music of the Impressionists, Ravel was faithful to a tecnhice that left no room for improvisations and personal interpretations. Thanks to his meticulous notation and deadly precision, he has earned the reputation of a "perfect watchmaker". He considered himself a composer of mind, not heart, treating creativity as an intellectual exercise. Even his famous "Bolero" was made out.
“I managed to create only one remarkable work - Bolero. Unfortunately, there is no music in it. It's just an intricate symphonic fabric, ”he concluded.
He was also a meticulous engineer in his private life. Gifted with manual skills, he made tiny figurines from bread and carved mechanically moved dolls.
Ravel came from a culturally mixed family. The father was of Swiss ancestry and the mother was Basque.
When he wrote Bolero in 1928, he was 53 years old. Neither he nor any of his friends had even suspected the tragedy to come, but already then such a thorough and meticulous composer began to make spelling mistakes in his letters, and his handwriting became shaky and sloppy.
That same year, while vacationing at Lake Saint-Jean-de-Luz, he suddenly found himself unable to stay afloat (he had always been an excellent swimmer). In October 1932 he had a car accident in Paris. He lost several teeth, injured his face and spine.
There was no indication that his brain would be damaged as well, but his condition began to worsen. The aphasia and writing problems have worsened. "I cannot, I cannot sign myself" - he told his impresario.
His last correspondence is from 1934. He expressed his condolences to his friend Maurice Delange after his mother died. It took him 8 days to delete 50 words. Even though he "heard the words in his head," he couldn't remember how to form them, so he searched Larousse's dictionary until he found the right phrase.
There are many indications that Ravel suffered from a neurodegenerative process in the frontal parts of his brain. And when he wrote "Bolero" he was probably already sick. However, the disease has never been unequivocally recognized and remains a mystery to this day.
Is it audible in his works that the left hemisphere of the brain, which is meticulous and calculating every move, responsible for the "engineering" part of the composer's nature, stops and lets the right one speak - the sensitive, unbridled and artistic?
Music connoisseurs say yes. They emphasize the noticeable change in style and structure that is noticeable in "Bolero". The spontaneity culminates in "Concerto for the Left Hand" - jazz, with an irregular, pulsating course, with frequent changes in rhythm, syncopation, and unprecedented instrumental richness.
Some critics believe that it is impossible to talk about art, creativity and artistic ideas when its author is not fully mentally and psychologically capable.
Is it really? Listen to "Bolero" or "Concerto for the Left Hand" and decide for yourself.