French composer, who was influenced by Debussy and whose richly orchestrated music and chamber music form part of the modern repertoire.
Ravel studied at the Paris Conservatoire (1889–1905), where he joined Fauré;'s composition class. His lack of success in the Prix de Rome, when he was already a composer of some renown, caused something of a scandal and the resignation of the director of the Conservatoire. This battle with the establishment led Ravel to refuse the Légion d'honneur in later life. During World War I Ravel joined the motor transport corps but was invalided out just before the death of his mother in 1916. This was a great shock to him, and it seems that after his mother's death he was never able to establish any other emotional relationship.
He was, however, a prolific composer. Among his most important works were Ma mère d'oye (1908; Mother Goose), originally a suite for piano duet, later orchestrated (1912); Daphnis et Chloë (1909–12) and Bolero (1928), both ballets; and Gaspard de la nuit (1908), an impressionistic piano suite. Ravel also had a strong feeling for the exotic and the antique, which was expressed in such works as the orchestral Rapsodie espagnole (1907–08; Spanish Rhapsody) as well as the piano music Sonatine (1903–05) and Le Tombeau de Couperin (1914–17). He wrote two fantasy operas, L'Heure espagnole (1907–09; The Spanish Hour) and L'Enfant et les sortilèges (1920–25; The Child and the Spells), as well as a considerable amount of other music for the human voice, including the Histoires naturelles (1906) for voice and piano, Shéhérazade (1903) for voice and orchestra, and Chansons madécasses (1925–26) for voice and chamber ensemble.