The composer and conductor Manuel Rosenthal studied at the Conservatoire before meeting Ravel in 1925. He became his pupil and then a close friend. In 1928 Ravel pressed for a concert of Rosenthal's works, which also became the young man's first conducting opportunity. It led to an acquaintance with the conductor Desiré-Emile Inghelbrecht, whose assistant Rosenthal became in 1934.
In the 1930s, with the composer's approval, he orchestrated the Histoires naturelles and three of the Cinq mélodies populaires grecques , (the other two of which Ravel himself had previously orchestrated). Rosenthal's own compositions included serious and religious works, but he became best known for his lighter pieces, such as the ballet Gaîté parisienne, based on themes by Offenbach.
As the longest surviving of Ravel's close friends and associates, Rosenthal was a source of much personal information for biographers of the composer. One of his assessments was: "Si je devais concrétiser en trois mots la qualité humaine la plus remarquable de Ravel, je dirais sans hésiter: l'homme qui n'a jamais menti de toute sa vie, ni à son art, ni à ses amis, ni à ses ennemis". (Quoted in Orenstein , p.457).
Manuel Rosenthal published his own book of recollections in 1995: Ravel: souvenirs de Manuel Rosenthal. He died just thirteen days before his 99th birthday.
An obituary in Le Monde (10.vi.2003) remarked: "Manuel Rosenthal était resté dans une excellente forme jusqu'à la fin. 'Lorsque, fin 2002, nous lui avons rendu hommage à l'Opéra-Comique, se souvient [Jean-Luc] Tingaud, il m'a semblé qu'il était heureux de ce rendez-vous. Puis sa santé a décliné, mais il aura eu une vie heureuse et riche, sous le signe du partage et de la générosité.' "
Roger Nichols in The Guardian (9.vi.2003) noted Rosenthal's determination and his occasional prickliness, recalling that Virgil Thompson had referred to him as a "hot potato".