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The Ballets of Maurice Ravel: Creation and Interpretation

Research output: Book/Report/ProceedingsBook

Published

  • D. H. Mawer
Publication date2006
PublisherAshgate
Number of pages314
ISBN (Print)0-7546-3029-3
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Maurice Ravel, as composer and scenario writer, collaborated with some of the greatest ballet directors, choreographers, designers and dancers of his time, including Diaghilev, Ida Rubinstein, Benois and Nijinsky. In this book, the first study dedicated to Ravel’s ballets, Deborah Mawer explores these relationships and argues that ballet music should not be regarded in isolation from its associated arts. Indeed, Ravel’s views on ballet and other stage works privilege a synthesized aesthetic. The first chapter establishes a historical and critical context for Ravel’s scores, engaging en route with multimedia theory. Six main ballets from Daphnis et Chloé through to Boléro are considered holistically alongside themes such as childhood fantasy, waltzing and neoclassicism. Each work is examined in terms of its evolution, premiere, critical reception and reinterpretation through to the present; new findings result from primary-source research, undertaken especially in Paris. The final chapter discusses the reasons for Ravel’s collaborations and the strengths and weaknesses of his interpersonal relations. Mawer emphasizes the importance of the performative dimension in realizing Ravel’s achievement, and proposes that the composer’s large-scale oeuvre can, in a sense, be viewed as a balletic undertaking. In so doing, this book adds significantly to current research interest in artistic production and interplay in early twentieth-century Paris.

Bibliographic note

This monograph was funded by AHRC Research Leave: '13,153 (2003-4) and two British Academy grants: '968 (2002); '2,055 (2004-5). This provides a dedicated study of Ravel's ballets. The research led to an invited paper for the international music-dance conference: Sound Moves (London, November 2005). Dancing Times (2006) perceives 'A powerful study of unusual scope'. Notes (2007) identifies: 'a significant contribution by a leading scholar ' the first comprehensive investigation of the role of ballet within the composer's oeuvre; it confronts and helps to overcome the historical divide between scholarly discourses on music and dance ' [it] is certain to generate a new and lively discussion ' and promises to exert a lasting influence upon future scholarship'. Building on research by Nichols and Orenstein, the book argues that Ravel's ballet music must be situated in its interarts context. It recovers, translates and discusses scenarios, manuscripts, dance documentation, designs and production reviews from the Biblioth'que Nationale and Royal Opera House. For Orenstein (CUNY, 2005) (endorsement): 'This well-documented study offers important insight into the choreographic aspects of Ravel's art. Highly recommended.' Orledge notes: 'a feast of meticulous scholarship and unbiased evaluation' (TLS,forthcoming 2007). The study adapts multimedia theory from Albright, Cook and Stephanie Jordan, who notes a project 'very valuable to scholars and students in both music and dance' (endorsement). It applies a poietic-esthesic approach, examining Ravel's aesthetic, writings, and collaborations, while also interpreting evolving works and their reception. Beyond ballet, the book tackles wide-ranging issues of ontology, autonomy and identity, e.g. when a new production becomes a new work, or how one constituent can impact dramatically upon perception of another. RAE_import_type : Authored book RAE_uoa_type : LICA