So, in what aspect does Debussy and Ravel differ in their music composition? Both composers are famous for their skills and their music. To have a better understanding of their musical background, we have first to look at their biographies and find out why they became a composer in the first place.
Life Of Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy was a famous French composer that was born on the 22nd of August 1862 on the northern fringes of Paris. He has four other siblings in his family, and he was the eldest. His father ran a china shop, while his mother worked as a seamstress. After two years, they decided to close the shop and transfer to the city of Paris. They lived first with his grandmother before they owned an apartment after four years.
After the siege of Paris took place in 1870, Claude’s family needed to escape, which led his mother to bring him and his sister to his father’s sister, who was living in Cannes at the time. During his stay at his aunt’s home, he started to learn to play the piano as his aunt paid an Italian musician named Jean Cerutti to teach him to play the instrument.
After many years of studying the instrument, Claude’s talent as a pianist became evident to everyone. For this reason, he was admitted when he was ten to the Conservatoire de Paris, which is a famous school for music and dance. He decided to join the piano class of Antoine Francois Marmontel, one of the school’s most renowned teachers. He also studied solfege, composition, harmony, and organ, music history, and music theories.
One of his inspirations for why he started to compose was because of Marie Vasnier. She was a member of the class taught by Marie Moreau-Sainti, where Claude was her accompanist. He was able to compose 27 songs throughout their relationship. Most of his teachers consider him a bad student, especially because he is known for not following the rules. Even with his reputation, he was still able to win the Prix de Rome, which is France’s most prestigious musical award.
After winning the award, he was given the opportunity to work in the ideal setting, but after two years, he decided to go back to Paris. After a week, he heard about Richard Wagner’s act at the Concert Lamoureux. He was very impressed with it and immediately considered it to be the best thing that he knew. He frequently went to Wagner’s operas at Bayreuth. He praised Wagner’s harmonies and mastery of form, but he admitted that there was no future in adopting and developing Wagner’s style of composition.
Aside from Richard Wagner, his other musical influences were also Aleksandr Borodin and Modest Mussorgsky, both Russian composers. In his 25 years of being a composer, he could do things that had never been done before, and he is widely known today for his innovations as a composer.
Life Of Ravel
Joseph-Maurice Ravel, also known by many as Maurice Ravel, is a French composer who was born in a village near Saint-Jean-de-Luz on the 7th day of March 1875. His father has Swiss descent, while his mother has Basque descent. Ravel’s family, especially his mother, has a strong background from her Basque heritage. As his parents are known to be free-thinkers, his father encouraged him to study music, as his talents were already obvious to everyone, even at an early age.
Ravel enrolled in the Paris Conservatoire when he was still 14 years old, and he was able to stay there for 16 years. He was able to win the first prize in the school’s piano contest but did not really stand out compared to other students. He steadily progressed in his piano skills, but he was expelled from the prestigious music school after failing to win a competitive medal for three consecutive years.
In the early 1900s, Ravel and a group of young artists joined an informal group called the Les Apaches. This is where he became friends with Debussy, where the latter is twelve years his senior. Ravel had high regard and respect for Debussy’s skills as a composer, but after long years of being friendly with each other, they decided to end their friendly relationship as their supporters started to create factions against each other.
Although Ravel attempted five times to win the most prestigious prize for composers, Prix de Rome, unfortunately, the highest achievement he ever received was the second prize on his second try. Ravel is more known for being more traditional and not a revolutionary composer like Debussy. However, his skills as a composer and his mastery of orchestration make him one of the best composers to have ever lived.
His most famous works are Bolero, Daphni Et Chloe, Miroirs, La Valse, Jeux d’Eau, and many more. Unfortunately, his last years were stricken by aphasia, which prevented him from making music again.
Differences Of Music Composition Between Debussy And Ravel
There are similarities between Debussy and Ravel, but they also have a lot of differences, especially in their music composition. Debussy’s music is known to portray his impression, while Ravel’s music is widely used for portraying the object. Debussy usually uses shorter melodic fragments, while Ravel frequently uses longer melodic fragments. Debussy’s melodies are made using more exotic chord modulations, while Ravel’s melodies are omnipresent.
Another difference between them is the level of skills in orchestration. Ravel is widely known by many as one of the best orchestrators that have ever lived, if not the best, while Debussy is just above average and cannot compare to Ravel. Ravel always knew what musical instrument to choose when a melody needed to be carried. Unlike Ravel, many critics feel that Debussy lacks the proficiency of being a world-class orchestrator like Ravel.
Many would say that Debussy’s music is unique and more innovative, while Ravel’s works are more in a traditional style but with mastery. Although both composers are known to be impressionists, Debussy’s works have a more subjective impression in them, while Ravel’s works are more linear and descriptive.
So, in what aspect does Debussy and Ravel differ in their music composition? There are many aspects that the two surely differ in their music composition. Ravel is widely better in orchestration, which has a big effect on music composition. Although both are known to be impressionists, Debussy’s music has more subjective impressions, while Ravel’s compositions have more descriptive impressions in them.