Maurice Ravel's Secret Passions

Maurice Ravel was inspired by the world around him. Everything from his house to Oriental iconography left an impression on his music.


Situated in Montfort l’Amaury, 50km south west of Paris, “La Belvédère” – Ravel’s home from 1921 to his death in 1937 – was his safe haven and greatest love. His delight in childhood things was encapsulated in the dwelling’s immaculate precision and layout, like a doll’s house.

His love of mechanical toys was everywhere apparent, including a mechanical nightingale with real feathers and a beak that opened, which sang from its perch. His passion for the Orient found an outlet in his Japanese garden.



■ Chinoiserie
Artistic tendency dating back to the 17th century adapting Oriental iconography in idealised forms.

■ Mechanisation
The mechanical recreation of human and animal movements and gestures.

■ Pointillism
Paintings or pieces created out of individual points of colour or sound.


■ Clavecinists
A group of 17th-century French composers specialising in piquant harpsichord works.

■ Impressionism
Axiomatic artistic movement inspired by Monet’s ‘Impression, Sunrise’, 1872.

■ Jazz
Popular American musical idiom that exerted a profound cross-cultural influence.


■ Marie Ravel
Ravel’s Basque mother whose proud heritage inspired his Hispanic series of scores.

■ Igor Stravinsky
(1882-1971) Russian revolutionary of scintillating sonic and rhythmic ingenuity.

■ Erik Satie
(1866-1925) Created soundworlds of microcosmic simplicity.


■ Belle époque
Period of prosperity that resulted in the refinement of everything from cooking to music.

■ First World War
One of the most devastating human conflicts in history, which claimed over 15 million lives.