Claude Debussy is one of the most recognizable names in classical music but his younger brother, Maurice Ravel carved his own equally successfully career before his death in 1937 aged 62.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 15.22.26 Maurice Ravel, 1925

Born in 1875 and thirteen years younger than his brother, he won a place at the Paris Conservatoire when he was 14. He stayed until he was 30 and during this period he composed some of his best known works, including the Sonatine for piano, and the String Quartet.

In 1914 when Germany invaded France, Ravel tried to join the Air Force but without success. It wasn’t until the year later he was accepted into the Thirteenth Artillery Regiment as a lorry driver. He was 40 years old. He felt very passionately about the war effort but he wasn’t prepared to let it affect music. The National League for the Defense of French Music, created in 1916 campaigned for a performance ban on all German contemporary compositions and when Maurice declined to join, the committee banned the performance of his pieces too. He defended his choice in a letter, writing:

“It would be dangerous for French composers to ignore systematically the productions of their foreign colleagues, and thus form themselves into a sort of national coterie: our musical art, which is so rich at the present time, would soon degenerate, becoming isolated in banal formulas.”

Ater Debussy’s death in 1918, Ravel was widely regarded as France’s greatest living composer. Rollo H Myers, the author of Modern French Music; Ravel: Life and Works, explains:

“Ravel was in no sense a revolutionary musician. He was for the most part content to work within the established formal and harmonic conventions of his day, still firmly rooted in tonality—i.e., the organization of music around focal tones. Yet, so very personal and individual was his adaptation and manipulation of the traditional musical idiom that it would be true to say he forged for himself a language of his own that bears the stamp of his personality as unmistakably as any work of Bach or Chopin”

This month we received some sheet music, signed by Maurice sent in from Bristol.

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It was part of a pile of sheet music that was inherited by the son of a music teacher and it is a copy of Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess, which was also composed while he was at the Conservatoire in Paris. A pavane was a stately dance in a slow duple time that was popular in the 16th and 17th centuries.

It is signed by the composer with the message: "The only French edition checked by the author(?) to the original”.

Last year, in May 2015, signed sheet music by the same artist was sold at Sothebys, London for £3,500.

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Using just the photographs, London-based auction house, Forum Auctions valued the sheet music on the valuation service at £600-£800. We will bring you the news if it comes to sale!

Do you have anything hidden away you would like to investigate further? Send it to the Barnebys valuation service today!

 

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