Joseph Maurice Ravel (1875–1937) was born in the town of Ciboure in France. His father was a very successful engineer and inventor and he and his mother greatly encouraged his musical interests. They sent him to study in Paris at the age of seven and by the age of fourteen he had performed his first public piano recital. From the very beginning his career was remarkable.
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Son to two musical parents – his father, David was a light music pianist and his mother, Evstolia was the daughter of a chorus master – Vladimir Ashkenazy has enjoyed broad influence in the musical world, successfully working as both a pianist and conductor.
A famously eccentric figure during the Modern era, Erik Satie (1866–1925) was a French composer, pianist and writer. His pieces are at once nostalgic and playful, simplistic and strange, and his own disposition was well-matched to his radical musical style. Sometimes described as ‘anti-emotional’ and ironic, Satie’s work was a response to and escape from German (in particular, Wagnerian and Romantic) models. He is also famous for the unique titles of his works (such as Genuine Limp Preludes (For a Dog)), and his bizarre performance directions (for example, instructions that a section be played ‘as dry as a cuckoo’), as well as his humorous miniatures for piano, where bar lines, time signatures and even keys were removed. Having once referred to himself as someone who ‘measures sounds’, Satie is often identifiable by his strange, unresolved chords; his most well-known works include the 'Gymnopédies’.