This article, “Reflections on Maurice Ravel’s Creativity,” focuses on two important aspects of the composer's career: his musical aesthetics and his creative process. Set against the vibrant Parisian musical scene from the 1890s to the1930s, we note the important lessons that Ravel absorbed at the Conservatoire--where his only formal education took place--and his personal amalgam of some aesthetic reflections of Mozart, Baudelaire, Mallarme and Poe. We are told that composers should learn their craft like painters, by imitating good models, and the composer’s objective should be a lifelong pursuit of “technical perfection. I can strive unceasingly to this end,” Ravel observes, “since I am certain of never being able to attain it. The important thing is to get nearer to it all the time.”
An examination of Ravel’s creative process reveals that the path toward technical perfection was fraught with difficulties at every stage. His initial sketches consisted of melody and figured bass--reflecting his strict academic training at the Conservatoire--and reproductions of manuscripts and sketches in the article highlight some melodic, harmonic and rhythmic problems that he encountered.
The concluding section of this article surveys Ravel’s growing international reputation and his legacy as one of France’s most frequently performed and recorded composers. Perhaps the key to his success is the striking ability of his music to speak to laymen as well as scholars, much like his musical idol Mozart. Ravel’s home at Montfort l’Amaury is a national museum which receives many visitors from around the world. It is now some 140 years since his birth, and looking to the future, an important goal of researchers should be a scholarly edition of his complete works, similar to the one in progress for his distinguished compatriot Claude Debussy.