Histoires Naturelles - Musical Influence

Musical Influence

Ravel was always a supporter of young musicians, through his society and associations and through his personal individual advice and his help in securing performance dates. His closest students included Maurice Delage, Manuel Rosenthal, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Alexis Roland-Manuel and Vlado Perlemuter. Ravel modeled his teaching methods after his own teacher Gabriel Fauré, avoiding formulas and emphasizing individualism. Ravel's preferred way of teaching would be to have a conversation with his students and demonstrate his points at the piano. He was rigorous and demanding in teaching counterpoint and fugue, as he revered Johann Sebastian Bach without reservation. But in all other areas, he considered Mozart the ideal, with the perfect balance between "classical symmetry and the element of surprise", and with works of clarity, perfect craftsmanship, and measured amounts of lyricism. Often Ravel would challenge a student with "What would Mozart do?" and then ask the student to invent his own solution.

Though never a paid critic as Debussy had been, Ravel had strong opinions on historical and contemporary music and musicians, which influenced his younger contemporaries. In creating his own music, he tended to avoid the more monumental composers as models, finding relatively little kinship with or inspiration from Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Berlioz or Franck. However, as an outspoken commentator on the Romantic giants, he found much of Beethoven "exasperating", Wagner's influence "pernicious" and Berlioz's harmony "clumsy". He had considerable admiration for other 19th-century masters such as Chopin, Liszt, Mendelssohn, and Schubert. Despite what he considered its technical deficiencies, Ravel was a strong advocate of Russian music and praised its spontaneity, orchestral color, and exoticism.

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