Neoclassicism, Aviation, and the Great War

Glenn Watkins

in Proof through the Night

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780520231580
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520927896 | DOI:
Neoclassicism, Aviation, and the Great War

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Aside from Claude Debussy and Vincent d'Indy, another French composer to confront the prospect of war in highly personal terms was Maurice Ravel. It was at this time that Ravel began work on the Piano Trio. But it is in the central “Trois beaux oiseaux du Paradis” that Ravel made his most unambiguous reference to the Great War. Birds, especially swallows and nightingales, had long been symbols of hope, but never more so than in the period between the Franco-Prussian conflict and World War I, during which few songs were more popular than “L'oiseau qui vient de France.” All pianists who have played Ravel's Tombeau de Couperin know that from a performer's perspective the concluding “Toccata” makes the greatest technical demands of the entire suite. In a more generalized discussion of Tombeau that nowhere touches on the issue of aviation, Carolyn Abbate has tellingly addressed this very issue.

Keywords: Maurice Ravel; aviation; Great War; Piano Trio; birds; France; Tombeau de Couperin; Toccata; songs

Chapter.  8356 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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