1908 - 1917: Paris, 4 avenue Carnot

4 avenue Carnot (06/2012)  ©Manuel Cornejo

The avenue Carnot was the grandest address that Ravel ever had. It certainly marked a significant social change from the rue Chevallier. Avenue Carnot is one of the broad streets that radiate from the Place de l'Étoile, and no.4 is only a few yards from the Arc de Triomphe.

Ravel expressed his delight at the move in one of his letters to the Godebskis: "...une vue magnifique, un appartement délicieux, tout prêt, même l'électricité." (Orenstein [1989], letter 57, nov. 1908).

He composed some of his major works at this address: Ma mère l'oye, Valses nobles et sentimentales, Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé, and his ballet Daphnis et Chloé (the last of these being mentioned on the plaque which is now on the front of the building.

Roland-Manuel described a visit to Ravel in the Avenue Carnot, referring to the contrasting life-styles of Ravel and his brother, and to the composer's absolute tidiness with the materials of his own work:

"Notre musicien partageait l'appartement de l'avenue Carnot avec sa mère, charmante, de qui le fin visage s'auréolait de cheveux blancs, et avec son frère, qu'il se plaignait de ne jamais voir; car l'ingénieur Édouard Ravel se levait beaucoup trop tôt pour rencontrer ailleurs que dans l'escalier le noctambule Maurice Ravel qui se couchait beaucoup trop tard.

"De la fenêtre du salon, on découvrait l'Arc de Triomphe. Aux murs, recouverts d'un papier moiré, un beau portrait du père de l'artiste par Marcelin Desboutin, une gouache de Paul Sordes et deux estampes japonaises. Rien n'indiquait au visiteur l'habitation d'un compositeur de musique. Ce magicien aimait à escamoter jusqu'à l'appareil de ses tours. Il était rare que l'on vît traîner un crayon ou une feuille de papier réglé sur la table ou sur le piano, lequel était presque toujours fermé." (Colette, et al. [1939] pp.142-143).

During 1913 and 1914 Ravel spent a good deal of time in St. Jean-de-Luz, composing amongst other things his Trio. When the war broke out, he was eager to enlist (preferably in the airforce) and frustrated when he was rejected for military service for being underweight. His determination continued and he was at last accepted as a private in the artillery in March 1915, and was trained as a driver before being sent to the Western front near Verdun in March 1916.

After an accident and a serious illness, it was only in November 1916 that he returned to Paris. He was with his mother at avenue Carnot when she died on 5 January 1917.

Commemorative plaque at 4 avenue Carnot (08/2000) Plaque at 4 avenue Carnot (06/2012)  ©Manuel Cornejo

In the unsettled years which followed, Ravel stayed at various addresses, in and out of Paris.

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